New York City Tenant Rights
Repairs and Services
You are entitled to a building in good repair. Your landlord must keep the hallways and common areas clean, paint your apartment every three years, exterminate rats, mice, roaches, bedbugs, other vermin, and any dangers to your life or health, in a timely manner. You are entitled to a electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heat, and ventilation systems and appliances in good working order. These rights cannot be waived. If you signed a lease for an "as is" apartment, you are still entitled to these services. These rights are absolute, with minor exceptions like smoke alarm batteries, which the tenant must provide. If the tenant caused the damage, the landlord must repair it—though there are, of course, serious consequences for acts of vandalism. If the tenant painted the apartment a new color, the landlord must still paint it every three years.
If the landlord disputes that repairs must be made, call 311 for an inspection. If the HPD Inspector finds violations, the landlord must repair them.
If your building has ten or more units, you are entitled to have a superintendent who resides in the building, within 200 feet of the building, or within one block or the building, whichever is greater. Your superintendent's name, address, and phone number must be listed in the building.
If your building was built before 1960, or before 1978 and your landlord knows there is lead paint in the building, your landlord has a duty to ascertain if a child under seven lives in the apartment, inspect the apartment for hazards, and remediate any lead paint hazards.
Heat and Hot Water
You have the right to hot water all year round, at a minimum temperature of 120°F (48.8°C). From October 1 to May 31, if the temperature outside is below 55°F (12.7°C), your landlord must provide an apartment that is 68°F (20°C) inside from 6am to 10pm, and if the temperature outside is below 40°, your landlord must provide an apartment that is 55°F (12.7°C) inside from 10pm to 6am.
You are entitled to advance notice before your landlord comes into your apartment. If your landlord needs access for an inspection, they must give you 24 hours written notice. For access to make repairs, they must give you secen days notice. No advance notice is required for emergency repairs.
Rent and Security Deposits
If you pay rent by other means than personal check, your landlord must provide a rent receipt. You should not have to ask your landlord to get this receipt. The receipt should state the address, rent period, and amount of your payment. When you pay an initial security deposit, your landlord must place this deposit in a separate, interest bearing account. Your landlord must provide you with a receipt showing the location of your security deposit. Commingling your security deposit with other funds is prohibited.
Brokers and Fees
Your landlord may charge for last month's rent and a security deposit, but may not charge for a brokers fee. Only a broker who is unaffiliated with the building owner may collect a fee.
Your Rights During An Eviction
If you have a lease, if your landlord has ever accepted rent from you, or if you have lived in an apartment for 30 days, you have rights!
Only a marshall or sheriff can evict you, and they can only do so if they have a Judgment and Warrant of Eviction. It is illegal for anyone else to remove you or your possessions, change your lock, prevent you from entering your apartment, or discontinue essential services such as heat, water, or electricity to force you from your home. If your landlord does any of these things, you can call the police, and sue your landlord in Housing Court for the illegal lockout.
Before your landlord can hire a marshal or sheriff, they must first obtain a Judgment and Warrant of Eviction from a court. You have the right to defend yourself in the court case. Your landlord, the court, and the marshall must notify you that you are the subject of an eviction proceeding. These rights apply to everyone, including family members, roommates, and guests, so if your landlord evicts your roommate but fails to evict you, you are still protected.
Enforcing Your Rights
If your landlord fails to maintain your apartment or provide services, you can take them to court by starting a Housing Part (HP) Action against your landlord, and request the court to order the landlord to make the necessary repairs or restore your services. Low-income tenants can get the filing fees waived.
You have the right to form, join, and participate in tenants' organizations for the purposes of protecting your rights. Your landlord may not harass you for tenant organizing activities. Tenant organizations may use the common areas of their building for free, including the lobby if there is no community room, to hold meetings.
To sublet your apartment, you must obtain permission from your landlord. In a privately owned building with four or more units, your landlord may not unreasonably deny your request to sublet your apartment. If you live in subsidized housing, or receive rental assistance based on your income, you may not have the right to sublet your apartment. Be sure to check your program's rules before subletting.
Under New York law, you are entitled to a roommate. If your roommates are family members, they may reside with you so long as the apartment does not become overcrowded. If only one person has signed the lease, you have the right to live with one unrelated adult, and their children. You may not overcharge your roommate in a rent-stabilized apartment. If you live in special income-based housing, these rules may not apply to your apartment. Be sure to check with your individual income-based housing program before taking in a roommate.
It is illegal for your landlord to treat you differently as a tenant based on your:
- National Origin
- Housing Subsidy
- Sexual Orientation
- Source if Income
- Marital or Partnership Status
- Whether you have children
- Lawful occupation
- Gender or Gender Identity
If you are being discriminated against, you can contact the New York City Human Rights Commission, by calling 311.
Rent-Regulated and Rent-Stabilized Tenant Rights
Rent-regulated and rent-stabilized tenants have access to even more rights regarding their legal rents, causes for eviction, and leases. Many New York City residents are rent-stabilized, but do not know it. See our Rent Regulation page, and call DHCR for more information about your rent regulation status.
If you live with a regulated tenant who is your family member (including non-traditional family relationships) for a certain period of time before the primary tenant moves or passes away, you have the right to take over the lease for the apartment under the same terms, conditions, and rent levels as the departing tenant.
Regulated tenants may apply to the DHCR for a rent reduction if the landlord reduces their services, or fails to make repairs in a timely manner.
Rent Renewal Leases and Riders
If you are rent regulated, landlords can only end your tenancy for specific reasons set forth in the rent regulations. Your landlord, generally, must offer you a new lease at the end of your lease term, and must offer you the option of a one-year or two-year lease term. If a new lease is not offered, the old lease remains in effect. You must sign a properly offered renewal lease in a timely manner in order to retain your stabilized tenancy, but you are not required to sign anything that changes the other terms of the original lease.
Illegal Rent Overcharges
Rent regulated tenants can challenge a rental amount, and seek a rent adjustment and refund if their landlord has overcharged them for rent. If you believe that you have been overcharged or that your landlord has illegally certified that the apartment is deregulated, you can contact the DHCR or commence an overcharge case in the housing court.
SCRIE and DRIE: Seniors and Disabled Tenants
If you live in rent-controlled, rent-stabilized, or Mitchell-Lama apartment, you may have your rent frozen permanently. If you are sixty-two years old or older, and you pay one-third of your income or more in rent, and your income falls below a certain threshold, you can apply for a Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) or Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE). You can apply for these programs by calling 311. If you are disabled, your landlord must provide reasonable accommodations for your disability, so that you have equal access to your housing.
New York law has a specific provision to protect tenants in buildings that are being used for an illegal trade or business (such as drug dealing, selling illegal contraband, or prostitution). RPAPL § 715 allows tenants, or tenants of a nearby building, to bring an action in housing Court to have the illegal business evicted. The City also has the right to take action, and the Attorney General will usually press the landlord to seek eviction and assist the landlord in court.
Are You Rent Regulated?
Before going into the various forms of rent regulation, you might want to know why they are important.
While the specifics are different for each type of regulation, they generally provide for limitations on rent and rent increases, requirements as to maintaining services, and, in today’s market, rights of continued occupancy or rights to continued lease renewal. Rent regulated tenants may have the right to live in their apartments, so long as they comply with their lease and tenancy obligations and the law, for their lives, and certain family members may even have the right to continue occupancy after the tenant moves out or passes away—called “succession rights.”
Where a tenant has a rent regulated status, and the landlord wishes to have the apartment empty—for renovation, building demolition, or just for higher rent—the landlord may be forced to give substantial concessions to the tenant, even large sums as a buy-out, to achieve that goal, or may just have to live with the fact that the tenant can remain indefinitely.
A rent controlled or rent stabilized tenant in a building that the landlord wants to demolish as part of a development project may be able to demand very substantial sums to give up their rent regulated status and move. This is called a “buyout.”
With good legal representation, you can turn a 50/50 or otherwise uncertain rent stabilization issue into a substantial buyout.
A tenant in that situation should consult legal counsel as soon as the landlord’s desires become apparent, because the legal and regulatory issues can be complex. If there is even some likelihood that a tenant has protection under one of the rent regulatory statutes, seeking legal advice promptly is important.
There are two major forms of rent regulation in New York:
Rent Control and Rent Stabilization.
There are also forms of rent regulation under the Loft Law and under various rent subsidy programs.
Rent control and rent stabilization have similar provisions and protections, particularly as to when a landlord can bring an eviction proceeding. The manner that rents periodically adjusted and various procedural issues are different, but similar for the two systems.
One thing is common to both systems—you rent regulatory status does not depend on what your lease says it is. If the landlord gives you a lease with “deregulated apartment” appearing all over it, that fact does not make it deregulated. If the landlord gives you a lease that says that the apartment is rent stabilized or rent controlled, that alone does not make it so. Rent regulatory status depends on the legal status of the apartment, not the agreement of the landlord and tenant.
Whether or not a tenant is covered by a form of rent regulation can be a complicated issue. Just because a lease says a tenant is, or is not, covered by rent regulation is not controlling. The registrations on file with the DHCR may not be controlling either, as they are merely what the landlord has told the DHCR.
generally applies to buildings with six or more residential units constructed prior to July 1974—but it gets a little complicated. There are legal provisions that bring other apartments under the law and there are deregulation provisions.
is the earlier form of rent regulation, and began during World War II. If you are a rent-controlled tenant, you probably know your status. It generally applies to older buildings and tenants who have been in residence (or successor family members) since 1971.
The six-unit requirement generally can be taken to mean that, at some time from July 1974 to the present there were six or more units, and, if the building is part of a complex sharing facilities, the units of two or more buildings can be considered together to make the six units needed. A six unit rent stabilized building is still rent stabilized if two apartments are combined so that there are only five apartments, and if a five unit building built before July 1974 becomes a six unit building because an apartment is split into two apartments, the building then qualifies for rent stabilization.
However, there are deregulation provisions. The most important one now is the “high rent” deregulation. If there is a vacancy and the legal rent is $2,500 or more (previously $2,000 or more), then the apartment can be deregulated. Notice that the rent must be a legal rent—in our practice we come across situations where the landlord has made false claims about the amount of the legal rent to attempt an illegal deregulation of the apartment.
Fraudulent claims for rent increases can be made by the landlord in the form of claiming apartment renovations that did not occur or did not cost what the landlord claims; phony preferential lease claims; filing incorrect information with the DHCR, and other ways.
So your apartment may still be regulated even if the rent charged is over $2,500; but you have to do some legwork to get the facts straight, and not rely solely on what the landlord claims.
Buildings that have J51 tax benefits or 421-a tax benefits or certain other housing subsidies, are also usually subject to rent stabilization, even if built after 1974, regardless of the rent charged. There is no high rent deregulation for these buildings while the tax subsidy is in effect.
There is a series of lists of rent stabilized buildings, none of which have a guaranteed accuracy. You can consult this for your information, but you may wish to investigate your situation further. http://nycrgb.org/html/resources/zip.html
A completely renovated building, renovated after July 1974, is treated like a new building, and will be deregulated. For what constitutes a complete renovation, the DHCR has issued Operational Bulletin 95-2, which you can find on their web page at http://www.nyshcr.org/Rent/OperationalBulletins/.