A residential lease is a contract between tenant and landlord that sets out the rights and obligations of each party. As with any contract, careful drafting can help avoid future lease disputes. In addition to the terms in the lease itself, the landlord-tenant relationship in New York is subject to a number of state, federal and city laws.
A lease should clearly identify the parties; for the landlord this means the person, corporation, partnership or other entity that actually owns the building, and would be entitled to sue in court if the lease is breached. The property that is being leased should be clearly described. The amount of rent, the dates rent is due, and the term of the lease (one year, two years, month-to-month and so on) should be set out. The lease should clearly address what utilities, if any, the landlord is responsible for.
The lease should be drafted in plain English, not legalese. Many potential lease disputes can be avoided if both landlord and tenant are able to clearly understand the terms of the lease.
State laws govern security deposits and many of the lease terms. In New York, a security deposit cannot be more than one month's rent, and the landlord must pay interest on the deposit. When a lease term expires, and the tenant remains at the property with the landlord's acquiescence, the lease is automatically converted to a month-to-month tenancy under New York law.
Landlords are bound by federal and state anti-discrimination statutes; they cannot refuse to rent to anyone on the basis of race, religion, gender, marital status or disability. New York City also has a number of laws affecting residential leases, including rent stabilization and rent control laws.
Source: Findlaw, "New York Leases and Rental Agreements Laws," accessed Sept. 27, 2014