Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association hosts seminar on security deposits

May 25, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA) hosted a virtual Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar on Wednesday, aimed at educating attorneys on the intricate details of security deposit laws. 

The seminar, titled “Security Deposits: What Attorneys Should Know to Protect Their Clients’ Rights”, garnered high praise for its comprehensive coverage and quality of discussion.

Clockwise from top left: Maria I. Beltrani, veteran in the field of real estate litigation, Kyle Giller, an advocate for consumer justice, Judge Heela Capell, the moderator of the seminar, Tedmund Wan, a stalwart in consumer justice, and Matthew A. Ulmann, esteemed commercial litigation expert, captured during the enlightening CLE hosted by the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.

“I think this was very worthwhile,” said BWBA President Susan Mauro, commending the seminar’s organization and wealth of information. “For someone who doesn’t practice in the area, I found it very interesting to learn the ins and outs. I got a lot of details today. Thank you to Judge Capell for doing this.”

Mauro also acknowledged the effort put forth by Judith Aarons, BWBA’s CLE chair, stating, “Judith works tirelessly to put together events like this one. This was a really informative and fun event.”

The seminar featured several esteemed legal experts. Judge Heela Capell, a Civil Court Judge in Brooklyn and a respected member of the BWBA, drew from her extensive experience in civil and housing court proceedings. Other panelists included Maria I. Beltrani, a member of Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas LLP; Matthew A. Ulmann, an associate of SSRGA; Kyle Giller, a Consumer Justice Staff Attorney at NYPIRG; and Tedmund Wan, the Director of the Consumer Justice practice area at TakeRoot Justice.

The seminar addressed key aspects of landlord-tenant relations in the context of security deposits. Participants examined the legal conditions under which landlords can require the forfeiture of security deposits and how tenants can safeguard their right to return these deposits. 

Additionally, the discussion highlighted notable amendments to the general obligations law, second 7-108, and Real Property Law Section 227, brought about by the 2019 Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act.

In New York City, the law surrounding security deposits has several critical elements:

  1. Limit on Deposit Amount: As of 2019, landlords can only charge up to one month’s rent as a security deposit for rent-stabilized and non-rent stabilized apartments, according to the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act.
  2. Storage of Deposits: Landlords must keep security deposits in a separate, interest-bearing account in a New York State bank if the rental property has six or more units.
  3. Return of Deposits: After a tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit, less any lawful deductions, within 14 days. The landlord should provide an itemized statement if any amount is withheld.
  4. Duty to Mitigate Damages: If a tenant breaks a lease, the landlord has a duty to mitigate damages. That means they must make a reasonable effort to re-rent the apartment. Once the unit is re-rented, the original tenant’s obligation to pay rent ends, and the landlord cannot double-dip by collecting rent from both the new and the old tenant.

Kyle Giller explained the nuanced distinction between extensive damage and ordinary wear and tear, emphasizing the importance of a judge’s interpretation: “If the damage is enough to open the landlord up to a future warranty of habitability violation, that is something that crosses the line… It really comes down to what the judge decides, but I think having that warranty of habitability is a good guideline.”

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