An advice columnist at the Democrat and Chronicle discusses tenants’ privacy rights in New York:
Dear Anne: For the past 12 years, I’ve been the tenant in a townhouse in a complex in suburban Monroe County; my landlord owns the townhouse. As a private person, I’ve always required that I be present when maintenance was required. My lease ends Aug. 31. My landlord informed me she is considering selling the townhouse, contingent on an appraisal by a real estate agent. She appears to believe she can enter my residence whenever she wishes. From what I’ve learned, “under the New York state Doctrine of Quiet Enjoyment, a landlord has a limited right of access to a tenant’s apartment. The only exception to this is an emergency.” How do I ensure that my landlord abides by this doctrine? If my landlord decides to sell, what are my legal rights with respect to the sales process? Do I have the right to determine when buyers and real estate agents can visit? Do I have the right to prohibit open houses? Do I need legal assistance? How do I find an appropriate lawyer?
Answer: In New York state, a landlord must give at least 24 hours notice before entering the tenant’s unit for other than an emergency. While you cannot unreasonably withhold permission to enter, it must be done on an appointment basis. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe a court would uphold your prohibition of open houses if you provide other regular means of accessing the unit for sale purposes.
As you feel strongly about this, I suggest you have a lawyer write a formal letter to the landlord, stating your position and the law on which you rely. Most lawyers would be able to handle this fairly straightforward piece of business. If you feel an attorney specializing in real estate law would serve you best, contact the Monroe County Bar Association at (585) 546-2130 or www.mcba.org to access their Lawyer Referral Service. If you have limited means, you may qualify for help through the Legal Aid Society, (585) 232-4090 or Monroe County Legal Assistance, (585) 325-2520.