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Before a series of sweeping changes to rent laws in June 2019, New York City owners and management companies were free to ask tenants to pay first month’s rent and several months’ rent as a security deposit. In the case of foreign nationals, it was not uncommon for owners and management companies to ask for anywhere from three to 12 months' rent as a security deposit. As of 2020, this practice is no longer permitted; 2019's robust laws also ensure that tenants can more easily retrieve their security deposits when they move out and do so promptly. (Indeed, if the city does not pass the FARE Act, the first hearing of which is scheduled for today, tenants will likely need their security deposits to pay the broker fee for their next apartment.)
At a time when Manhattan rents are at an all-time high and the outer boroughs are not offering much respite, the security deposit is likely to be no small amount. This article outlines the current rules, regulations, and retrieval rights that now govern security deposits not only in New York City but throughout the state. It also looks at recently launched New York City rentals.

In this article:

The Reserve, 212 East 125th Street
The Reserve, 212 East 125th Street East Harlem
Anagram Columbus Circle, 1 West 60th Street
Anagram Columbus Circle, 1 West 60th Street Lincoln Center
Crown Heights rowhomes

Why are security deposits necessary?

A security deposit is a sum of money provided by a prospective tenant to an owner or management company that is paid in addition to the first month’s rent. Theoretically, the security deposit, which owners are supposed to hold in an escrow account, is collected to ensure that owners will be able to cover any damage done to a unit during the tenancy without taking legal action.

How much can owners ask for up front?

While owners and management companies were once free to ask for as much security as they liked, as of June 2019, New York State has placed strict regulations on the practice. Whether the unit is rent-regulated or not, the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 clearly states, “No deposit or advance shall exceed the amount of one month’s rent.” This means that if you’re renting an apartment for $2,700, you can now only be asked to pay first month’s rent and an additional $2,700 as a security deposit.

Notably, tenants can no longer be asked to pay the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. Some tenants blow off paying their last month's rent, assuming the security deposit can cover it, but this practice is frowned upon, and landlords in this case would be entitled to sue to cover damages to the apartment.

How and when are owners obliged to return a security deposit?

In the past, owners and management companies were only obliged to return deposits in a reasonable but unspecified timeframe and didn’t have to fully disclose why they weren’t returning a deposit or the full amount of a deposit. Since the passing of the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019, everything has changed and the changes do favor tenants. Highlights of the current law include the following:
  • Owners and management companies must return the security deposit in full. The only exceptions concern legitimate itemized costs due to “non-payment of rent, damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear, non-payment of utility charges payable directly to the landlord under the terms of the lease or tenancy, and moving and storage of the tenant’s belongings.”
  • After an initial lease signing but before occupancy, tenants must be informed of their right to inspect their unit; if there is existing damage to the unit, a tenant has the right to have these articles detailed and upon vacating the unit, the owner or management company cannot charge the tenant for any pre-existing damage.
  • When a tenant indicates they are terminating a lease, unless they have given less than two weeks’ notice, the owner or management company must inform them of their right to request an inspection before vacating the premises.
  • The tenant has the right to be present at the inspection, which may not be “earlier than two weeks and no later than one week before the end of the tenancy.” The owner or management company must also provide at least forty-eight hours written notice of the inspection date.
  • Following the inspection, the owner or management company must give the tenant an itemized statement detailing any repairs or cleaning that will result in a deduction from the tenant’s deposit. If the tenant can remedy the problems on their own, they have the right to do so.
  • Most notably, within fourteen days of a tenant vacating a unit, the owner or management company must return the tenant’s security deposit and provide the tenant with an itemized statement indicating why any monies have been withheld.

If I paid several months’ security upfront, can I get it back before moving out?

As already noted, before the sweeping legislative changes approved in 2019, some owners and management companies were in the habit of asking tenants to pay several months’ rent as a security deposit before taking possession of an apartment. In most cases, these requests were made when the prospective tenant lacked an established credit or rental history. As a result, new renters—for example, recent graduates and foreign nationals—were especially likely to be asked to come up with anywhere from three to 12 month’s rent as a security deposit. Now that it is illegal for owners and management companies to ask for several month’s rent upfront as a security deposit, there is some ambiguity about the status of these excessively large deposits.
Some local management companies are reportedly informing tenants that they can request to have their excess security deposits returned or use them to pay any remaining rent once they indicate their intention to terminate a current lease. However, to date, such notices appear to be arriving from owners and management companies on a voluntary basis. What is clear is that if you’re a tenant who was asked to pay several months’ rent upfront as a security deposit, getting back your large deposit, which may be worth well over $10,000, will now be much easier than it was in the past.

A number of firms providing alternatives to security deposits — Rhino, The Guarantors, and Insurent among them — have started to prove popular among renters, landlords, and building owners alike; but for now, the security deposit still prevails in New York. This includes at a number of recently launched rentals throughout the five boroughs and on the New Jersey Gold Coast. However, several of these have rent concessions and other grand opening offers in effect as of this writing.

Newly-launched No Fee Rentals in NYC

12 availabilities from $10,610/mo.
Up to 3 months free rent on a 24-month lease

1 West 60th Street, Upper West Side Anagram Columbus Circle (Rose Associates)
Apartment interiors at Anagram Columbus Circle
Between 15 Central Park West, One Central Park, and One Central Park West, Columbus Circle is home to some of New York’s most eye-poppingly attractive (and expensive!) condominiums. But as Anagram Columbus Circle shows, rentals are not to be counted out. The apartments are going fast – the building is 80% leased – and a robust four-story, 13,000-square-foot amenity package has just been unveiled.
Below the lobby, the Rec Room features fitness and recreational offerings like a multi-sport simulator, a children’s playroom inspired by the Central Park Zoo, a teen lounge with video arcade, and a music room. The Clubhouse features a double-height library and lounge area with double-height ceilings. The Conservatory offers access to a tranquil community garden and high-tech conference rooms. The roof deck, dubbed The Top, includes a penthouse lounge and terrace with catering kitchen, grilling stations, and beautiful views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

4 availabilities from $4,350/mo.
2 months free rent on a 12-month lease

Entrance to 212 East 125th Street The Reserve (Real New York)
Living room and open kitchen
Lounge with courtyard access
Between Second and Third Avenues, and right at the point where the Second Avenue subway extension would reach, The Reserve brings new standards to East Harlem. All units are reached via keyless entry and feature open living space, sleek kitchens with stainless steel appliances, central air conditioning, and in-unit laundry. A part-time doorman and full-time concierge are on staff, and amenities include Amazon package lockers, a fitness center, a spa area with dry sauna and massage chairs, a coworking lounge, a tenants’ lounge with pool table, a courtyard, and roof decks with sky lounges.

11 availabilities from $4,395/mo.
1 month free rent on a 12-month lease

One Domino Square, two-towered complex on Williamsburg waterfront One Domino Square
Living room with Williamsburg Bridge views One Domino Square interiors (Two Trees Management)
Outdoor pool
On the transformed Domino Sugar Refinery site, the height and the angle of the towers at One Domino Square allow for spectacular views of the nearby Williamsburg Bridge, the East River, and the Manhattan skyline. Leasing has just launched on the rental component, where all units feature sophisticated finishes, LED track lighting, Bosch kitchen appliances and washer/dryer, high-end bathroom fixtures, and smart technology like keyless entry and Ecobee thermostats. A 45,000-square-foot amenity package includes a state-of-the-art health club, indoor lap pool, media room, game lounge, chef’s kitchen, children’s playroom, pet spa, and landscaped roof garden.
One Domino Square, 5 South 5th Street, Brooklyn rentals
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One Domino Square, 5 South 5th Street, Brooklyn rentals
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One Domino Square, 5 South 5th Street, Brooklyn rentals
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One Domino Square, 5 South 5th Street, Brooklyn rentals
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One Domino Square, 5 South 5th Street, Brooklyn rentals
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One Domino Square, 5 South 5th Street, Brooklyn rentals
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828 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg rental The Wave (Reavis Partners LLC)
Open kitchen with integrated appliances
Lobby lounge
At street level in East Williamsburg, The Wave stands out for its curved corner and elegant architecture that bring the Village’s 111 Charles Street to mind. All studio to two-bedroom homes feature floor-to-ceiling windows, open-concept layouts, kitchens with quartz countertops and Blomberg appliances, and in-unit washer/dryers. Many units have private balconies, and all residents enjoy access to amenities like a package room, a fitness center, a lounge with a screening area, private parking, bike storage, a courtyard, and a landscaped roof deck with grilling stations, outdoor shower, lounging and dining areas, and dramatic skyline views.

2 availabilities from $4,595/mo.
Up to 2 months free rent on a 14-month lease

445 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn rental Arris Grand (Corcoran New Development)
Living room with treetop views
Lounge with pool table
In the heart of brownstone Brooklyn, Arris Grand is a respectful addition with its low-rise height and red brick facade. However, interiors were designed with the modern buyer in mind to feature open layouts, floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors, sleek open kitchens, and in-unit washer/dryers. Indoor amenities include an attended lobby with package room, a fitness center, a media lounge, a coworking center, a party room, and a game lounge. The roof terrace offers grills, dining and lounge areas, a dog run, and dramatic Brooklyn views.

7 availabilities from $3,940/mo.
1 month free rent on a 13-month lease

11 Ocean Parkway, Windsor Terrace rental One Park Point (MNS)
Living/dining room
Rooftop terrace
One Park Point is a new development rental located in the heart of Brooklyn near Prospect Park, offering an oasis of peace in a bustling city. All interiors feature expansive park and/or skyline views, oversized windows, white oak flooring, kitchens with custom cabinetry, walk-in closets, and in-unit washer/dryers. Amenities include a landscaped inner courtyard, a furnished roof deck with 360-degree views, a fully equipped fitness center with adjacent yoga room, coworking spaces, a residents' lounge, a children's playroom, bike storage, and on-site parking.

11 availabilities from $3,060/mo.
2 months free rent on move-ins by July 15

1515 Surf Avenue, new Coney Island rental 1515 Surf (LCOR)
Living room
Outdoor pool deck overlooking the Atlantic Ocean
1515 Surf has an all-electric infrastructure and holds the distinction of being the largest residential geothermal building to date in New York City. The development comprises 463 units, 139 of which have been designated as affordable, across two towers located directly adjacent to the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk.

All units feature high ceilings, oversized windows, exposed concrete, Caesarstone countertops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchens, double-wide mirrored medicine cabinets in the baths, smart locks and thermostats, and in-unit washer/dryer. Resort-style amenities include a fitness center, an indoor basketball and handball court, an outdoor pool, a children's playroom, a pet spa, beach lockers, a game room with pool table and vintage arcade games, and a 20,000-square-foot landscaped private garden.

26 availabilities from $3,050/mo.
Up to 4 months free rent on a 24-month lease

97-12 65th Road, Queens rental Vista 65 (Nest Seekers LLC)
Living room and open kitchen
Lounge with coworking areas
Vista 65 is situated at the nexus of Forest Hills and Rego Park, offering luxury living up the street from the 67th Avenue M/R trains. By virtue of its soaring height and oversized soundproof windows, all apartments enjoy incredible views and natural light; interiors feature high-end finishes, stainless steel appliances, spa-like baths, multi-zone heating and air conditioning, and in-unit laundry. Residents arrive to an attended lobby with a 30-foot ceiling, and amenities include a gym, children’s playroom, lounge, coworking space with coffee bar, and landscaped terrace.

14 availabilities from $3,050/mo.
Limited time "look and lease" special

Estela entrance, Mott Haven Estela (The Domain Companies)
Living room
Rooftop terrace
In the middle of Mott Haven’s rental renaissance, Estela pays tribute to the neighborhood’s industrial history with masonry-inspired architecture. However, all apartments boast modern features like oversized windows, natural materials, open chef’s kitchens, designer baths, walk-in closets, and in-unit washer/dryers. Curated local art is on display throughout the buildings, and indoor amenities include a state-of-the-art fitness center, basketball court, double-height coworking space, game room, and children’s playroom. Outdoor amenity offerings include a landscaped courtyard, furnished decks with Harlem River views, fully equipped outdoor kitchens, an outdoor screening area, and a dog run.

158 availabilities from $3,445/mo.
1/2 month free rent on all residences

30 Park Lane North, Jersey City rental Bisby (Newport Associates Development Company)
Corner living room
Roof deck
In the Newport section of Jersey City, leasing has just launched on Bisby. All units blend luxury and functionality with features like oversized windows, smart home features, open kitchens with quartz countertops, and spa-like baths. Select residences have private balconies overlooking waterfront views, and all residents enjoy access to a rooftop oasis with pickleball court, outdoor fitness area, dog run, fire pit, and outdoor kitchen with BBQ grills. Indoor amenities include a fitness center, golf simulator, content studio, children’s playroom, dog spa, and lounge with game area.

Two Trees Management

Two Trees Management
One Domino Square Leasing
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 222-XXXX
Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.