Rent Coach

Rent Coach: False bed bug history (and when your tenant bugs you)

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Q. When I moved into my apartment, the landlord’s disclosure form stated that there was no bed bug history on my floor.  After I moved in, I learned that the apartment next door had bed bugs earlier this year and I am freaking out!  What can I do?

A. Though the NYC Administrative Code requires landlords to disclose whether bed bugs have been detected in the apartment or in the building within the past year (and if in the building, on what floor), the law doesn't have much teeth. 

Even if you contact the NYS Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to file a complaint against your landlord, all the law requires is that the DHCR “shall order the owner to furnish the notice.”  That’s probably not the resolution you were hoping for.

You might try contacting your landlord and asking them to explain in detail what happened and what steps they took to remediate the problem.  At least then you can better assess the risk of re-infestation in the building.

Q. I own an apartment in the city that I intend to rent out.  My broker found a prospective tenant, but after speaking with them, I have some concerns and don’t really want to rent to them.  What are the legally valid reasons to reject a tenant, and do I have to give a reason for the rejection?

A. If the tenant will not complete an application, does not satisfy the financial requirements to qualify for the apartment, has a history of being a poor tenant, or will not come to an agreement with you on the terms of the lease, you have a valid reason to reject them. 

You can consider things like their debt-to-income ratio, their assets, their credit history (including rent payment history), and prior landlords’ experience with them as a tenant. It's also OK to reject a tenant because they had a history of harassing other tenants, demanding frivolous repairs, or keeping a pet in violation of their lease. 

Just make sure your decision is not based on illegal discrimination that stereotypes the applicant because of their race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, etc.  For a complete list of protected classes, check out the NYC Commission on Human Rights website

You generally do not need to provide your reason for rejecting a tenant, but sure to keep a file on any rejected applicant in your records.  If that applicant ever alleges illegal discrimination, you want to have a record of the valid reasons that you relied upon to turn them down. 

Important: If your rejection is based on information found in a credit report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires you to provide them with written notice of your decision and the information you relied on.  Speak to an attorney or property manager if you have questions regarding this.


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. Rent Coach also appears in AM New York's Thursday real estate section.

 

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