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What Are New York City Tenant Rights?

Renee Cherez

Renee Cherez

You may not realize all the rights renters are afforded by New York City and State law. Learn what protections are provided and how you can protect yourself from a discriminatory or negligent landlord.
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Living in New York City is a dream for those who want to call the concrete jungle home because of all that makes New York, New York.

However, this dream can feel overwhelming if one is unaware of their rights as a tenant.

Everything is fast in New York including the renters market and the demands some landlords place on renters to pay increased rent costs, the sudden selling of property and ending leases without notice.

This all has the potential to change living situations of families in New York City, but luckily, tenants benefit from many renters protection and it is important to know them to defend yourself, should the situation arise.


New York City Tenant Rights

  • New York City and State provide an exemplary set of rights for its residents that rent from a New York landlord.
  • Tenant rights include the right to fair housing, limited money upfront, and a safe and secure home.
  • Fair Housing laws make sure that landlords cannot discriminate against renters based on their religion, gender, race, nationality, creed, disability, or sexual orientation.
  • Some other rights include the right to sublet your apartment as well as to take on roommates; nor is a landlord allowed to outright convict you without due process.

What is the Right to Fair Housing?

The New York City Human Rights Law prohibits a person(s) renting out a home from discriminating against renters based on race, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and income type, such as rental assistance like Section 8.

This law also states that those renters with disabilities are qualified for accommodations that ease of access into their homes.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is a law that was enacted to stop the discriminatory practices that prevent the sale, rental and financing dwellings, like loan approval, based on color, race, national origin, sex, and religion.

Though dubbed as a progressive city, New York is one of the most segregated cities in the world and this law is necessary to prevent landlords and others from lawfully discriminating against individuals.

The National Fair Housing Alliance reports that in 2016, there were 28,000 reported cases of house discrimination nationwide.

Fifty-five percent of the discrimination cases were based on disability while twenty-percent discriminated against race.

Read on: How Does New York City's Fair Housing Law Affect Renters and Buyers?

What are the signs of a potentially problematic landlord?

Unfortunately, you can’t always tell in the beginning if a landlord will abide by the rental laws.

Here are some potential harassment behaviors you should be aware of:

  • Intimidation and threats, such as late-night phone calls.
  • Refusing to offer leases or lease renewals or trying to persuade you to move out of your apartment.
  • Eviction without notice and illegal lockouts.
  • Charging more for rent-regulated apartments.
  • Neglecting to provide necessary repairs or utilities.
  • Purposely causing construction-related problems such as blocking entrances, working later hours, or neglecting the removal of excess dust and debris.

Security Deposits, First Month's Rent, and Broker Fees

As of 2019, landlords can only collect a security deposit equal to just one month’s rent.

Fortunate for renters, landlords have 14 days from the termination of a lease to return the security deposit.

If any amount is being withheld for repairs, landlords are required to submit a detailed list of deductions made for repairs.

As of February 2020, broker fees are currently being re-negotiated after a New York judge temporarily blocked a new state rule barring brokers from charging broker fees which amount to close to 15 percent of an annual lease.

To learn more about money upfront, read What is a Security Deposit?

What Rights Do I Have as a Tenant in New York City?

As a tenant in New York City, you have the right to a well managed and safe home.

According to the Department of Housing and Preservation Development, tenants have the right to live in buildings that are well-maintained, free from leaks and hazardous conditions, the absence of rodents, heat in the winter and hot water.

Safe Living Conditions

As a tenant, you should always expect to live in safe housing conditions.

If the physical conditions in your building are not on par, like the locks on doors don’t work, the washing machine and dryer are out of order or the elevator is out of service, notify the building owner or manager immediately.

If you live in a rent-stabilized building, as a tenant you may file a complaint with the state.

Heating and Hot Water

In New York City, cold weather heating requirements state that heat is required between October 1st through May 31st.

During the “heat season” as it’s called, building owners are required to provide tenants with heat under the following conditions:

  • When the temperature outside is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit between the hours of 6 am and 10 pm, building owners must heat apartments to a minimum of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. The ower can only face violations if they fail to provide heat when the outside temperature is below 55 degrees.
  • Between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am, despite the outside temperature, landlord/building owners must ensure apartments are heated to a minimum of 62 degrees.
  • Tenants must have access to hot water 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, at a constant temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pests

The last thing you want are uninvited guests in your home, and you shouldn’t have to.

Landlords’ are obligated to ensure the health safety and cleanliness of apartments through pest control.

In the event that your apartment has rodents such as, cockroaches, mice or other pests, your landlord is responsible for resolving these situations quickly through extermination.

Bed bugs are also considered pests and should be exterminated by the landlord though cleaning and high-heat washing your items and apartment is your responsibility as a renter.

Additionally, landlords are required to inform potential tenants of any bed bug infestations within the last year.

Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

Carbon monoxide can be fatal because it is an odorless and toxic gas.

Landlords are obligated to install at least one approved detector in each unit along with how to test and maintain the device.

Carbon monoxide detectors must be installed within 15 feet of each bedroom’s main entrance and they must have an audible sound that lets tenants know when its batteries should be replaced.

Additionally, landlords are responsible for installing smoke detectors in each apartment.

Lead Paint

Lead paint is a dangerous substance that can lead to health issues like kidney failure and developmental delays in children if consumed.

Before 1960, lead paint was utilized in many New York City buildings.

LeadfreeNYC released a plan in 2019, that outlines forty-five different initiatives that the Mayors Office along with City Agencies are taking to remove lead from NYC buildings.

Mold

Mold occurs when old water damage lives in the walls of buildings.

Mold is also dangerous to your health and should be addressed immediately by your landlord and they should also address the source to ensure that it is fully gone.

Repairs

As a tenant, it is your right to live in a fully-functioning building and apartment.

Landlords and building owners are responsible for ensuring that your residence is free of any malfunctions that may affect your day-to-day.

Examples include broken heaters, plumbing issues, leaking roofs and issues that affect your health.

If these situations occur and your landlord does not remedy it in a timely manner, you can call 311 and address your claims.

Window Guards

If you are a parent with children under the age of 10 years old, your landlord is required to install window guards in your apartment.

When looking for an apartment to rent, be sure to let the landlord know that you have a child/children so that they know window guards must be installed.

Also, be aware that window guards cannot be removed or altered once installed.

Protection From Crime

Landlords are required by law to provide “minimal precautions” to protect you from potential intrusion and theft according to the Attorney General of New York.

Installed doors should lock and close on their own, entrance ways must be adequately lit, and if a bulk of tenants insist, a two-way intercom must be installed.

To learn more about signing a lease, read What to Expect at An Apartment Lease Signing in New York.

The Right to Have Roommates or Subletters

If you are a New York City sole tenant and only person on your lease, who lives in a privately-owned building you have the right to share your home with a roommate, regardless if a person is a relative or not and their children.

This doesn’t benefit those renters who live in subsidized housing or to tenants who share leases with roommates.

Additionally, you have the right to sublet your apartment if you reside in a privately-owned building that has four or more apartments and you are subletting for more than a period of at least 30-days or longer despite what your lease states.

Again, this law does not cover tenants who live in subsidized housing and rent-controlled tenants.

Read on: Apartment Room Share NYC: The Ultimate Guide.

The Right to Privacy

With a city of 8 million people, it will most likely not be quiet all the time, even during the hours you think it should.

However, as a tenant, your lease states that you have the right to occupy your unit free of intrusion of others, including your landlord.

The Right to Organize

The saying “there is strength in numbers” holds true for most instances when it comes to the collective getting their demands met, including those of tenants living in a building.

Forming a coalition of tenants who reside in the same building demanding solutions to problems is a great way to advocate for yourself as well as put pressure on management to meet the demands of the group.

The Right to a Day in Court Before Eviction

As a tenant, you cannot be evicted from your apartment without your day in court.

Your landlord is required to have a reason for eviction such as lease violation, the ending of a fixed term, or month to month lease with written notice or non-payment of rent.

If the tenant does not solve the issue, the landlord is lawfully obligated to take them to court.

If a judge has ruled in favor of the landlord, only then is the tenant legally removed from their residence.

Additionally, as a tenant, you have a right to a lawyer regardless of your ability to pay due to a housing bill that serves low-income tenants.

Read on: What to Do If You Get An Eviction Notice in New York City.

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