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Legal expert talks about landlord-tenant issues


Attorney Robert T. Peace knows landlord-tenant issues.

The Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York attorney has spent most of the past 14 years dealing with eviction proceedings and other landlord-tenant disputes. A majority of the 500 to 1,000 people who visit the 44 Public Square Legal Aid office experience landlord-tenant issues, he said.

"Even if you accept money from someone for renting a room in your house, you've got a landlord-tenant relationship," Mr. Peace said during his talk at Thursday's North Country Council of Social Agencies luncheon at the Best Western Carriage House Inn, 300 Washington St.

Landlords or tenants can't just void signed agreements, he said. There usually is an eviction process that follows nonpayment or expired lease issues, and a leaseholder can take a landlord to court to get out of the rental agreement if the landlord has not repaired problems that make the dwelling not up to code.

"It is illegal for (landlords) to desert you, as you are responsible to repair the apartment," Mr. Peace said.

Landlord-tenant issues don't stop at apartment or house rentals, he said. Hotels and motels in New York are in the mix, too. If a person or family has been placed in a hotel because they otherwise would have been homeless, Mr. Peace said, the hotel or motel also has to go through the eviction process to get them out of their rooms if they're being extremely disruptive.

The most common eviction proceedings are because of nonpayment, but that should just be associated with rent, and doesn't include the water bill or other fees, Mr. Peace said. Leaseholders who are behind on rent should be sent to their local Department of Social Services to see if they qualify for emergency rent assistance.

Before any landlord-tenant issue makes it to Mr. Peace's office or a legal proceeding, both parties should try to work out the problem between the two of them, or perhaps seek mediation, he said.

The Resolution Center offers volunteer mediators who will listen and talk with both parties involved in conflict, but will remain neutral and not make decisions for them. Mediation is free to the public. Call the Resolution Center at 785-0333 for more information, or the Legal Aid Society at 788-3770 if a landlord-tenant issue needs legal attention.

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