Are private landlords allowed to charge two month’s security? Where can I find information on what private landlords can and can not do?
New York law is silent on the matter. Meaning the landlord can charge whatever he can get, unless local laws place additional restrictions on the landlord. But… if your property is within New York City limits, and subject to rent control or rent stabilization, then the maximum allowable security deposit is one month’s rent. Landlords cannot ask for the last months’ rent up front in rent-controlled or stabilized units within New York City. They can request you to post additional amounts at renewal to keep the deposit on hand equal to a month’s rent, however.
In addition to New York, the other states with no statutory limits on initial deposits include:
- New York
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
As for the other states, maximum security deposits vary from one months rent (Alabama, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas (unfurnished apartments), Massachusetts, Nebraska (if no pets), New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota (if no pets), Pennsylvania (in 2nd and subsequent year of leases), Rhode Island and South Dakota) to three months’ rent (Nevada). All other states cap deposits at 1.5 to 2 months’ rent or some variation on that theme, with some states granting special allowances to landlords to charge more to tenants with pets or other special circumstances.
In Nevada, the renter can post a bond for up to three months’ rent if the landlord also agrees.
More details on state-by-state limits on security deposits are available here
Back to your question: You also asked where you can find more information on what landlords can and can’t do. Be sure to check the New York City link above. Additionally, Here’s a guide from the state Attorney General’s office detailing tenants’ rights within the state. Per the Attorney General, it is illegal to require money over and above allowable rent security deposits and rent for preference – a practice called charging “key money.” Ref. NY Penal Law Section 180.55.
Writing about personal finance and investments since 1999, Jason Van Steenwyk started as a reporter with Mutual Funds Magazine and served as editor of Investors’ Digest. He now publishes feature articles in many publications including Annuity Selling Guide, Bankrate.com, and more.