Landlords may be required to provide records to justify money witheld from tenants’ security deposit, according to New Paltz officials.
“We want to help everyone understand the [leasing] process better,” said New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers. “We want to empower tenants and landlords with clear expectations.”
A law to amend Chapter 129 of the Village of New Paltz code entitled “Housing Standards,” is under serious discussion by the village board. If passed, landlords would be required to return tenants’ security deposits within 21 days after the lease has ended. If the deadline is not met, landlords would pay an extra 25 percent of the original deposit to the tenant.
Security deposits are generally the equivalent of one month’s rent and cover potential damages inflicted on the property. Tenants are required to maintain the residence and abide by the terms of their lease to receive the full refund.
If the law is amended, landlords can deduct money from security deposits for repair costs, unpaid rent, unpaid utilities or expenses for a lawful eviction. All money withheld from the deposit would be supported in a document provided to the tenant.
Additionally, tenants could sue landlords to obtain their refund after the alloted time. If the tenant wins, the landlord would also be responsible for their attorney fees and reasonable costs of the trial.
Rogers recognizes that college students may be unfamiliar with the leasing process. He hopes this amendment will clear any confusion and improve tenant-landlord relations.
“As a tenant, I think the law would give me a sense of security and hold my landlord responsible for my money,” said Brian Conlon, a senior digital media major at SUNY New Paltz. Conlon is an off-campus resident who is still waiting for his security deposit from 2017.
Valerie Ann Erwin is a New Paltz resident, landlord and a member of the Landlord Tenant Relations Council. She believes that the amendment would bolster pre-existing laws concerning security deposits.
“I think landlords should be responsible for supporting documentation for any money taken from security deposits,” Erwin said. “It should protect tenants from getting taken advantage of.”
Erwin is also attempting to find student tenants to serve as members of the council to gain more perspectives on developing issues with residency.
The village spent multiple town meetings debating the subject and sought community feedback as well. Deputy Mayor KT Tobin recently brought the proposal to the Student Association of SUNY New Paltz. Tobin has received support from tenants and landlords alike.
“I’m hopeful the proposal will pass before the end of the semester,” Tobin said. “We will have greater confidence that it will be a fair system and start to challenge the culture that landlords don’t return security deposits.”