Updated January 2023
Are you a landlord in New York? If you aren’t familiar with New York tenant screening processes, it can seem a bit intimidating, because in this state, things are done a little differently than elsewhere.
The good news is that your worries are over because this post covers all kinds of topics that give you the tools to put the very best tenant into your rental property. You’ll learn more about:
- New York tenant screening laws
- Where to find free resources
- In-depth look at the screening process
- How to choose a tenant screening service
New York Tenant Screening Laws
As in most things, the state of New York has a different way of doing things, and tenant screening laws are among them.
As a New York landlord, you should know the basics like:
- The state of NY does not allow landlords to charge more than $20 for a background check, however, if the background check is less than $20 landlords cannot charge their applicant more than the actual cost of the background check.
- In New York you can set a maximum security deposit up to one month’s rent, unless the rental property is in a rent-controlled area, where local regulations apply
- No landlord of residential premises shall refuse to rent or offer a lease to a potential tenant on the basis that the tenant was involved in a past or pending landlord-tenant action. RentPrep provides NY-compliant reports (TransUnion Full Credit Report)
Every landlord should know that the tenant screening fee is not typically non-refundable and is not part of the approved applicant’s security deposit. Landlords may decide to refund the application fee only if they want to.
If you want even further detail on regulations and laws concerning NYS tenant screening, check out this guide.
Don’t Make This Screening Mistake
One of the most important things you can do as a landlord preparing to do a background check on an applicant is to get a signed consent form from them.
Every good rental application forms must include a place where the applicant can sign that gives consent for a background check to be conducted. Without it, you won’t be able to retrieve valuable information about the applicant.
For example, here is the consent section from one of our forms that we use at RentPrep.
The first red arrow shows where the wording states that the application fee is non-refundable. Every applicant deserves to know what each fee is going toward and whether it is refundable or not.
The second red arrow shows where the applicant puts their signature for consent to run a background check. This is really important for a New York tenant screening.
Now it’s time to look at all the free resources available to you as a New York landlord.
Resources For Tenant Screening In New York:
These free resources include articles, guides, and forms so that you can find the best possible tenant for your rental.
- Rental Application PDF – Have every prospective tenant fill out this rental application (make sure this editable doc is compliant with your state laws).*
- Move-In Move-Out checklist – This is helpful for after the tenant screening process to make sure you document the condition of the rental
- Rental Lease Agreement – Once you’ve decided on a tenant you’ll want to draw up a lease. This editable doc is a good starting place (make sure this editable doc is compliant with your state laws).
- Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA – Our screeners here at RentPrep are FCRA certified to ensure compliance on your screening report
- Tenant Screening Guide – This is a fun and informational tenant screening guide we put together using the game Guess Who
- Tenant Rights Guide – From the New York Attorney General’s Office
- Use of Tenant Screening Reports and Tenant Blacklisting – More details about tenant screening from the New York State Bar Association
*Don’t forget to institute a “No Blank Space” policy for every one of your rental applications. This is an excellent tool to weed out applicants with something to hide. They tend to leave lots of blank spaces on applications, hoping that landlords and screeners will not dig into these areas of their past. By refusing all applications with blank spaces, you can avoid bad tenants right from the start.
New York Tenant Screening Process
You must create a list of screening criteria for each of your rental properties in order to create a fair and balanced process. Many landlords find that writing down the criteria in list or checklist form is helpful.
Screening criteria can vary, depending on the property and your preferences. However, most lists include things like this:
- No smoking
- Pet limitations
- Income to monthly rent ratio
- No history of violent crimes
When making a list of screening criteria, it’s important that you don’t include any discriminatory reasons for refusing to rent. Most landlords are familiar with some protected classes like race or sex, but there are many others that qualify as well. Learn all about protected classes in housing and rental properties by checking out this website: hud.gov.
The best way to protect yourself from discrimination complaints and even lawsuits is to always be consistent when screening tenants. Stick to the screening criteria list and never make exceptions. Deviations from applicant to applicant can be seen as discrimination and might possibly bring you all kinds of legal trouble.
Overall, the tenant screening process is the same between states, but New York has a few things that make it stand out:
- In New York, the OCA provides information about tenants’ nonpayment proceedings
- Landlords must treat all security deposits as trust funds and cannot co-mingle tenant money with their own
- The limit on what landlords can charge for an application fee is $20
More details about landlord/tenant laws in New York can be found here.
Thorough Tenant Screening Guide
This post is meant to give you an overview of the rules that affect NYS landlords.
If you’d like a more thorough guide on tenant screening we recommend clicking this link.
Finding A Screening Service
So now you are at the point where you’ve got a few promising applicants and you have everything you need to run a background check. But where do you go now?
A proper background check should provide you with this information:
- Any bankruptcies
- All judgments and liens
- Criminal background report
Only real information from a reputable tenant screening company can provide you with what you need to make a good decision. Never rely on a gut feeling when choosing a new tenant because that rarely works out in your favor.
Your landlord needs will be taken care of here at RentPrep, and we’ve worked with over 150,000 landlords over the past 10 years who trust us.
Check out our tenant screening packages to see the services we offer.
Our FCRA-certified screeners will always work hard to provide you with the best New York tenant screening report available.