After many years of complaints from renters — particularly students — that their landlords — particularly absentee landlords — were refusing to return their security deposits with only the vaguest of explanations or none at all, the Village of New Paltz is finally taking concrete steps to codify the responsibilities of residential building-owners with regard to security deposits and specify punitive measures for those who fail to comply. At its July 26 meeting, the village board discussed feedback that it had just received from the Landlord/Tenant Relations Council urging stiffer penalties than the board had initially suggested.
Although the council comprises representatives from both the landlord and the tenant communities, “it was the landlords who said we need more teeth in this,” according to village trustee Dennis Young, who serves as the board’s liaison to the council. Those who are actually in the business of renting believed that the original idea of levying fines of $10 per day of delay in refunding security would not be sufficient incentive, Young said. “They thought we should charge 25 percent of the deposit every week for the first four weeks.”
Discussion ensued about how specific the change to the Housing Standards section of the Village Code would need to be regarding the means of notification of a former tenant required of a landlord. While some council members wanted the option of communicating via e-mail, Young said, sending a certified letter would provide landlords with better legal protection in the event of a tenant lawsuit. But in any case, “If you’re not returning the deposit, you have to say why.”
Trustee KT Tobin asked whether the village kept a master list of rental building-owners that it could use to apprise landlords of the coming changes to the law. Mayor Tim Rogers said that he would ask the Building Department, noting that it would be a useful database to have if one did not already exist.
Meanwhile, said Young, “I’ve tasked [the Landlord/Tenant Relations Council] to come back with concrete recommendations at our next meeting.”
The board members agreed not to schedule a public hearing on the proposed code changes until they have a chance to review the council’s specific recommended language.