Being a renter in NYC can seem like a tough deal. However, knowing your rights will help to ensure an exciting and enjoyable stay. High prices, small apartments, and seemingly being at the mercy of your landlord can undoubtedly make it look that way. However, you’d be wrong to think that it’s all in favor of the landlord. The city has begun clamping down hard on all kinds of shady practices by landlords. Tenants have rights too, but unless you know about them, how can you make use of them?
Here are the rights that every New York City tenant needs to know.
Table of Contents
- The Premises must be livable
- The right to privacy
- Security and Protection
- Maintenance issues and Repairs
- The relationship between Tenant and Landlord
- The right to not be evicted without one day in court
- The right to form associations
- The right to roommates
- Renter’s Misconceptions
- State of New York Tenants’ Rights Guide – Download
The Premises must be livable
All tenants have the right to livable and clean premises provided by the landlord. A comfortable and clean apartment is defined as habitable, fit for use by all parties, and free from anything dangerous. Once the tenant occupies the unit, these rights transfer over with no fault to the landlord if an issue arises. Tenants also have the right to protection against lead paint, timely repairs and maintenance, access to hot water, high-quality smoke detectors, locks on doors, and bed bug and rodent prevention. Tenants also have the right to quiet enjoyment.
The right to privacy
Does your landlord often make unannounced visits or come and go when you’re not around? This sort of thing gives many tenants pause as they might imagine, as the landlord is the owner, they have a legal right to enter at any time. This is not the case. Most leases will give you the right “to quiet enjoyment of your apartment.” This has little to do with any rights to it being quiet (good luck finding that in NYC!) but that you have the right to enjoy the apartment to the exclusion of others.
For a landlord to enter your apartment, they must provide notice and have adequate reasons such as repairs or showing the home to potential renters. The only time a landlord can enter without notice is in an emergency.
Security and Protection
The landlord, by law, is required to provide a protected living environment. The buildings’ main entrance doors must be locked at all times with a two-way locking system and intercom. Buildings that house eight or more units must have a lobby service. Elevators are also required to have mirrors. Within each apartment, approved smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must be within 10-feet of sleeping rooms. Tenants also have rights to personal door locks, peepholes, and mailboxes.
Maintenance issues and Repairs
For maintenance issues and repairs, the landlord has the right to enter each unit, given that it is a reasonable time and way. If the landlord fails to follow this, the penalty is a criminal violation. If the tenant pays utility directly, that amount can be deducted from rent. Otherwise, the landlord uses a portion of the rent to pay for utilities. If the landlord fails to pay, he is liable for compensation and punitive damages. Regarding heating and hot water usage, the tenant must have access to hot water 24 hours a day, all year round.
Heating equipment will be supplied from October through the end of May with an indoor temperature of 68 degrees when outdoor temperatures are below 55.
Before subletting, make sure that you have the permission to do so according to your lease terms. If allowed a written request that includes the length of a sublease, name, business, and address of subtenant, reason for subletting, and tenant’s address during this period along with written consent of co-tenants must be sent to the landlord.
The landlord then has the right to ask for more information but must provide a tenant with a decision within 30 days. If the landlord unreasonably refuses, a tenant can either terminate the lease or still sublet.
The relationship between Tenant and Landlord
NYS law requires that all landlords provide their tenants with a safe and livable environment. For instance, property owners in NYS are required by law to provide hot water for 365 days a year at a minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your landlord is harassing you with offers to buy-out, eviction notices, and creating unlivable conditions, you have the right to seek protection. You could enlist the help of a tenant lawyer or form a tenant association with your neighbors.
The tenant and landlord need to have a trusting relationship. This will ensure a positive living experience with open communication, which leads to having rent, bills, and maintenance problems paid and dealt with professionally. If your landlord refuses a prompt response, according to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, there are specific steps one can take. It’s important to acknowledge that this relationship should be mutually beneficial.
The right to not be evicted without one day in court
Have you come home to find new padlocks on the door? As much as a landlord might try to scare you with such a scenario, there are specific conditions that must first be met. To begin an eviction, the landlord must first have reasonable cause. It could be non-payment of rent, violation of the lease terms, or the ending of a fixed time.
Whichever one it is, it has to be provided on the written notice. Even under these conditions, a landlord must still take the tenant to court, win, and receive a “Warrant of Eviction” before the tenant can be legally evicted. Also, regardless of your ability to pay, recent legislation entitles all tenants to legal representation.
The right to form associations
As alluded to above, you have the right to organize and form associations with your other neighbors. By finding strength in numbers, you can bring all your recourses together to stand up to a difficult landlord. If you need to hire a lawyer, these unions can help in splitting the legal costs. The unions are also helpful on an individual basis for dealing with small issues.
The right to roommates
NYC renters who live in privately-owned condominiums or buildings and are the only person on the lease have a right to share the home with a roommate. You must provide your landlord with 30 days’ notice of this, so long as you’ve been a responsible tenant up until then, it shouldn’t be a problem.
This can be either a relative or a friend, along with their dependent children. It’s entirely up to you whether or not they pay part of the rent. However, don’t get this confused with subletting, which is a different thing. Keep in mind as well about laws on overcrowding. The landlord may limit the number of people you can take in.
As a renter, do not overlook common misconceptions about security deposits, brokerage fees, and period allotted for rent payment and maintenance response, most of which will be defined in your rental lease agreement.
For more rules and guidance on your rights as a renter, visit the Metropolitan Council on Housing.