Updated August 2023
The Big Apple has plenty of rental properties to choose from. According to the latest census data, approximately 66% of the city’s housing is occupied by renters. If you are a landlord from some of the major cities in NYC such as the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, etc., reading this article is a must! We will provide you with some tips on tenant screening, along with access to free resources on how to select a tenant that is best for you!
With the New York City tenant screening process, landlords will learn more about:
- NYC tenant screening laws
- Free resources
- Screening tenants properly
- Overview of screening processes
- Basics of tenant screening services
Tenant Screening NYC Laws
Tenant screening in New York City is subject to a complex set of laws and regulations due to the unique dynamics of the city’s rental market and its large urban population. NYC has some of the most stringent landlord-tenant policies in the country, and these regulations are designed to protect both tenants and landlords while addressing the specific challenges posed by the city’s densely populated environment.
Here are some key points regarding tenant screening in NYC:
- Landlords across the state of New York, including NYC, may charge a maximum of $20 for a screening. If the screening costs more than that, the landlord must foot the bill themselves. If the screening costs less than $20, landlords are not able to charge more than the actual cost of the screening.
- As of September 2010, NYC law requires the posting of signs about the use of tenant screening reports at any location at which transactions pertaining to the rental of residential property are located. More about this can be found here.
- NYC law “Tenant Screening Report Disclosure” requires landlords who collect rental applications to disclose whether the applicant’s information will be used to obtain a tenant screening and/or credit report. If the information is being used to obtain a tenant screening report, the name and address of the consumer reporting agency must be provided.
The Statewide Housing Security & Tenant Protection of 2019 and the Housing Stability & Tenant Protection Act are a sweeping collection of new provisions that strengthen tenant protections for all New Yorkers. Under the Acts, it is stated that:
- “No landlord of a residential premises shall refuse to rent or offer a lease to a potential tenant on the basis that the potential tenant was involved in a past or pending landlord-tenant action or summary processing.”
This means that landlords are now prohibited from conducting prior eviction screening. In the event that an applicant is denied by a landlord and it is discovered that the denial was based on evidence of previous evictions, it will be deemed a violation of NYS law. Notably, eviction records will now be sealed and not made public as of July, 2019.
Ignoring the laws on tenant screening is a bad idea for landlords in NYC. To keep up to date on all the different regulations, landlords can refer to this comprehensive NYC guide.
Avoid This Common Screening Mistake
Way too many NYC landlords are using rental applications that don’t help them find out all the best information on their potential tenants. In order for a landlord to run a background check on an applicant, they need to have their signature of consent on file. In other words, NYC landlords need to get the written consent of applicants before they can run a background check.
Here’s how we do it at RentPrep:
Top red arrow: This informs every applicant that the application fee is non-refundable.
Bottom red arrow: This indicates where the applicant needs to sign in order to give written permission for a background check.
Resources For Tenant Screening In NYC
RentPrep has gathered a helpful list of links for you to use in your real estate business. There’s no better way to find top tenants than to use the information here.
- Move-In Move-Out checklist – This is helpful for after the tenant screening process to make sure you document the condition of the rental
- Summary of Your Rights Under the FCRA – Our screeners here at RentPrep are FCRA certified to ensure compliance on your screening report
- NYC Tenants’ Rights Guide – All about the rights of tenants’ in NYC rentals
- The Official Website of the City of New York – In-depth sections on the unique laws that affect NYC landlords and tenants
*Don’t forget the “No Blank Space” policy. This is when you don’t accept any applications with blank spaces or areas that aren’t filled out. Often, applicants with a shady rental history will leave out important information. By only accepting applications that are completely filled out can you get the best screening results.
NYC Tenant Screening Process
Creating a tenant screening list is indeed a useful approach for landlords to streamline the application review process and ensure they find the right tenant for their rental property. Having this criteria set in stone will help you to make sure you are treating all applicants equally and fairly to avoid discrimination.
Here is an example of some tenant screening criteria that NYC landlords can use:
- Income must be at least 3 times the monthly rent
- No history of violent crimes
- Pet restrictions or limitations (size, breed, quantity, etc.)
- No smoking or use of illegal substances
An important thing to remember when selecting your tenants is to avoid any form of discrimination. As a NYC landlord, it is crucial to comply with all anti-discrimination housing laws on the state and federal level. For federal housing discrimination laws, check out the hud.gov website. The protected classes in NYC differ slightly from those in other states, and can be found here. Below is a list of some protected classes that are known to NYC:
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Pregnancy and Lactation Accommodations
- The presence of children
- Status as a victim of domestic violence, stalking, and sex offenses
NYC landlords can refer to this comprehensive website for more information on property management.
Check Out Your New York Screening Guide
In many cases cities have their own screening rules and regulations while the state has another set of rules that govern the screening process.
Click here to go to our post on “New York Tenant Screening Process.”
Finding The Right Tenant Screening Services
Once NYC landlords get the top applications in hand, they need to find the right tenant screening service to do a background check. There’s no substitute for a real background check done by professionals.
Never rent to a tenant based on your emotions–use hard data instead. If you choose not to do a background check, you won’t be able to know what kind of tenant they will be, until it’s too late.
At RentPrep, we have experience with over 21,000 landlords over the past 10 years. Check out our tenant screening packages to see the services we offer.
Our FCRA certified screeners will put your mind at ease by providing the best tenant screening report available.