Landlord-Tenant/Co-op Issues New Required Notice To Tenants
New York State has mandated that owners of residential rental properties must notify residential tenants of the tenants’ right to request (a) reasonable accommodations of rules, policies, practices, procedures and services and (b) reasonable modifications to their apartments or common areas, when such reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications are necessary to allow a person with disabilities to experience the same use and enjoyment of their premises as a person without disabilities.
The new law, which amends Section 296 of the New York Executive Law to add a new subsection 18-a, took effect on March 2, 2021. Highlights of this new law are:
- Section 18-a applies to “every owner, lessee, sub-lessee, assignee, or managing agent of, or other person having the right of ownership of or possession of or the right to rent or lease housing accommodations.”
- Section 18-a requires notice to all current and prospective tenants of their right to request reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications if they are a person with a disability.
- The notice must be in writing and given in such form and in such manner at the NY State Division of Human Rights (“DHR”) may proscribe.
- Notice must be given to all current tenants on or before April 1, 2021.
- The notice must be conspicuously posted on or in all vacant residential premises.
The DHR website contains a sample notice. The sample notice includes numerous possible reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications which a tenant with a disability may request. Owners, landlords and managing agents of residential rental properties should be aware, however, that the examples contained in the sample notice are for illustrative purposes only, and are by no means an exclusive list of reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications which a residential tenant may request and to which a property owner or landlord may be required to respond.
The DHR sample notice also educates a tenant on how to file a complaint with DHR if the tenant’s reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification request is denied or a decision is unduly delayed.
Since Section 296 (18-a) provides that that “such disclosure shall be made in writing in such form and manner as the division by regulation shall prescribe,” landlords and property owners are free to prepare their own notices, but we advise them to use the sample notice on the DHR website as a guide and not to deviate too far from the sample notice in content.
Landlords and property owners should keep several important concepts in mind. First, the requirement to reasonably accommodate tenants with disabilities is not new, and has existed in some form since the 1970s. Only the notice to tenants of the right to request reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications is new.
Second, the notice must be handled in tandem with the underlying legal obligation to reasonably accommodate disabilities. Requests for reasonable accommodations or reasonable modifications must undergo an “interactive process” by which the property owner or landlord and the tenant attempt to analyze ways to address the issues raised by tenants with a disability.
The “interactive process” and the legal standard for property owners or landlords to reasonably accommodate a tenant’s request are beyond the scope of this article. Generally, however, whether to accommodate a request by a tenant with a disability requires a balance between (i) the reasonable and justifiable nature of the tenant’s request and (ii) the hardship the request may cause to the property owner or landlord. If the request is medically, emotionally or psychologically justified and would not cause “undue financial or administrative burdens” to the property owner or landlord, the request is deemed reasonable and should be granted. If, however, the request involves a significant financial cost to the landlord or a fundamental change in the nature of the landlord’s business, a refusal to accommodate a tenant’s request may be justified.
Bleakley Platt & Schmidt will continue to provide guidance to its landlord and tenant clients as laws continue to evolve on the federal, state and local levels.