Being a renter in NYC can seem like a tough deal. High prices, tiny apartments and seemingly being at the mercy of your landlord can certainly make it look that way. However, you’d be wrong to think that it’s all in favor of the landlord. In fact, for the last few years, 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 five important rights that every NYC tenant needs to know.

The right to protection from landlord harassment

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 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 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 term.

Whichever one it is it has to be provided on a 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 removed. Also, regardless of your ability to pay, recent legislation entitles all tenants to legal representation.

The right to privacy

Does your landlord often may 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 literally 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 give 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.

The right to roommates

NYC renters who live in a privately-owned building 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 that there are still laws on overcrowding so the landlord may limit the number of people you can take in.


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