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50 million people rent their homes in America. And every one of them has rights.

In some parts of the country, renters have the right to hot water during the winter or predictable rent rates. Every American has the right to a safe, habitable, rental home.

The information on this page is provided as a free resource for renters in New York City. It is not legal advice. If you need legal advice or additional legal help, contact The Legal Aid Society

Does New York City have “rent control?”

Yes, but not all rental units are rent-controlled. In New York City, rent controlled buildings are generally built before February 1, 1947.

That amount that landlords can raise rent changes every year. It’s based on an average of either the past five years of Rent Guideline Board orders or 7.5% (whichever is lower).

What does it mean to have a “safe, habitable” place to live in New York City?

Landlords are required to maintain public areas in a clean and sanitary condition.

Also, Landlords of buildings with at least 3 apartments constructed before 1960 must determine if a child under seven years old lives in an apartment and must inspect that apartment for lead-based paint hazards.

If the landlord knows there is lead-based paint in a building they own, which was built between 1960 and 1978, they must do the same.

Other factors include:

Crime Prevention

Landlords are required to take precautions that protect against reasonably foreseeable criminal harm.

For example, tenants who are victims of crimes in their building or apartment, and who can prove that the criminal was an intruder who gained access because the entrance to the building was negligently maintained by the landlord, may be able to sue the landlord for damages.

Windows and Doors

Buildings with multiple units that were built or converted after 1967 must have automatic self-closing and self-locking doors at all entrances. These doors must be kept locked at all times, except when an attendant is on duty.

If this type of building contains eight or more apartments it must also have a two-way voice intercom system from each apartment to the front door and tenants must be able to “buzz” open the entrance door for visitors.

All other buildings with multiple units must have self-locking doors and a two-way intercom system if requested by a majority of all the apartments. Entrances, stairways, and yards of multiple dwellings must be sufficiently lit at night, from sunset to sunrise.

Landlords in New York City must install window guards in any apartment where a child under ten resides, and any time a tenant requests one. If an object more than five inches in diameter can fit through, over, or under a window guard, then it is not installed properly. Windows to fire escapes are excluded. Landlords must give tenants an annual notice about their rights to window guards and must provide this information in a lease rider.

The owner is responsible for installing and maintaining lighting in these areas, but landlords may recover the cost of providing this equipment from tenants. Rent-controlled and stabilized tenants may be charged up to $10 per window guard.

Elevators

There must be a mirror in each self-service elevator in multiple dwelling buildings so that people can see if anyone is already in the elevator before they get in. 

Peepholes

Landlords must provide a peephole in the entrance door of each apartment. Landlords of buildings with multiple units in New York City must also install a chain-door guard on the entrance door to each apartment, to permit partial opening of the door.

United States Postal regulations require landlords of buildings containing three or more apartments to provide secure mailboxes for each apartment unless the management has arranged to distribute the mail to each apartment. Landlords must keep the mailboxes and locks in good repair.

Heat Season

Heat must be supplied from October 1 through May 31 to tenants in multiple dwelling buildings. If the outdoor temperature falls below 55°F between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 68°F. If the outdoor temperature falls below 40°F between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 55°F.

Hot Water

In New York City, hot water must register at or above a constant temperature of 120 degrees at the tap. If a tub or shower is equipped with an anti-scald valve that prevents the hot water temperature from exceeding 120 degrees, the minimum hot water temperature for that tub or shower is 110 degrees.

Utility Services

If the landlord of a building with multiple units is late on utility bills, the utility company must give advanced written notice to tenants and before shutting off service. Service may not be discontinued if tenants pay the landlord’s current bill directly to the utility company. Tenants can deduct these charges from future rent payments.

If the landlord of a building with multiple units fails to pay a utility bill and service is discontinued, landlords may be liable for damages.

Tenants in oil-heated multiple dwellings may contract with an oil dealer, and pay for oil deliveries to their building when the landlord fails to ensure a sufficient fuel supply. These payments are deductible from rent. Local housing officials have lists of oil dealers who will make fuel deliveries under these circumstances.

The Public Service Commission can assist tenants with related problems.

Does my landlord have to provide smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in New York City?

New York City Landlords of all buildings with multiple units must provide and install an approved carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of the main entrance to any room where people sleep, and the carbon monoxide detectors must meet local building codes. New York City landlords must post an official form in a common area explaining New York City’s carbon monoxide laws.

Tenants are responsible for keeping and maintaining the carbon monoxide alarm in good repair. If a new carbon monoxide alarm is installed, renters are responsible for reimbursing the landlord $25.00 within one year

Landlords are responsible for replacing any detectors that are lost, stolen, or become inoperable within the first year of use. A landlord is entitled to be reimbursed a maximum of $50.00 for Combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors only when the smoke alarm needs to be replaced. If the smoke alarm is operable and the landlord wishes to replace it with a combined alarm, the landlord can only be reimbursed $25.00.

Tenants are responsible for keeping fresh batteries in carbon monoxide detectors.

How long does my landlord have to fix problems at my apartment in New York City?

It depends on how severe the problem is. Issues that are considered an emergency must be repaired within 24 hours. Other repairs must be completed within 30 days for hazardous conditions, and 90 days for non-hazardous conditions.

How can you tell the difference? In New York City, “C violations” are considered emergencies—those include heat, hot water, illegal devices on a central heating system, and lead-based paint.

When pests are the issue, repairs must be made within a “reasonable time,” which may vary depending on the severity of the problem.

What can I do if my landlord can’t or won’t fix problems at my apartment in New York City?

If you’ve notified your landlord of a repair, and they haven’t fixed it in the timeframes mentioned above, you have a few options.

Rent Abatement

Renters may withhold rent, but in response, the landlord may sue the renter for nonpayment of rent. In that case, the renter may countersue for breach of the warranty. Before withholding rent, or deciding to sue, renters should talk with an attorney. 

Repair and Deduct

In some cases, renters can make repairs and deduct reasonable repair costs from the rent. For example, when a landlord has been notified that a door lock is broken and doesn’t repair it, the renter may hire a locksmith and deduct the cost from the rent. Renters should keep receipts for such repairs and copies of all communications with the landlord about the repairs.

Vacate

If an apartment becomes uninhabitable due to fire or other damage not caused by the renter, and the lease does not expressly say otherwise, the renter may leave the apartment and cancel the lease. The renter will not be liable for rental payments and the landlord must refund any rent paid in advance and any rent security deposit held by the landlord.

If an apartment is rent stabilized or rent controlled, renters can ask the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to reduce your rent to $1. That way the apartment is still theirs until it’s safe to live there again.

If only a portion of the apartment is damaged, the rent may be reduced in proportion to the part of the apartment that is damaged. So if half of an apartment is damaged, DHCR might reduce rent by 50%. The landlord must then repair those portions of the apartment and return them to livable condition.

Sue

Renters may sue for a rent reduction. Rent-regulated renters can also file a rent reduction complaint with DHCR. Before filing a complaint, renters need to notify the landlord in writing and then wait 10-60 days before filing a complaint. Before deciding to sue, renters should talk with an attorney. 

How much can a landlord charge for a security deposit in New York City, and how do I get it back?

Landlords in New York City can’t charge more than one month of rent for a security deposit and must return the deposit within 14 days after a renter moves out. If a landlord takes any money out of the security deposit for damages, they must provide an itemized “receipt” describing the damage and its cost. If a landlord doesn’t provide this receipt within 14 days of moving out, then they must return the entire security deposit, whether there is damage or not.

If a renter plans to move, they can ask the landlord to inspect the apartment first. Landlords must allow renters to be there with them during the inspection, and must tell renters what needs to be fixed or cleaned. Then renters can then take care of the problems themselves and prevent the landlord from keeping part or all of their security deposit.

If a landlord deliberately violates security deposit laws, renters may be entitled to up to twice the amount of the security deposit. Before deciding to sue, renters should talk with an attorney. 

What does my landlord have to tell me about in New York City?

Deposits

If Security Deposits are held in a bank account, New York City landlords must tell renters the bank’s name and address, as well as the amount of the deposit.

Rent Increases

Maximum rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments are set each year by local Rent Guidelines Boards. Landlords are required to provide notice to renters if they intend to raise rent by more than five percent or if they do not intend to renew the lease.

The landlord must provide those notices ahead of time. The amount of notice depends on how long the renter has lived there:

  • 30 days in advance of renewal if a renter has lived in the apartment less than one year and has less than a 12-month lease.
  • 60 days in advance for a renter who has lived in the apartment for one to two years or for a renter with a lease term of between one and two years.
  • 90 days for a renter who has lived in the apartment for more than two years or for a renter with a lease term of at least two years.

Renewal

If an apartment is rent stabilized, landlords must give written notice of the right to renew a lease.This notice can be sent by mail or personally delivered to the apartment, and must be sent 90-150 days before the lease expires.

Renters have 60 days to accept. If the renter does not accept the renewal offer within that time, the landlord may refuse to renew the lease and try to evict. If the renter accepts the renewal offer, the landlord has 30 days to return the “fully executed” lease (signed by the renter and landlord) to the renter.

Entry

Unless otherwise agreed to, the landlord must request access in writing with at least one week’s notice for repairs and 24-hour notice for inspections, before entering a rental unit where someone lives. 

Other Required Notices in New York City

Truth in Heating.

Before signing a lease requiring payment of individual heating and cooling bills, prospective renters are entitled to receive a complete set or summary of the past two years’ bills from the landlord. These copies must be provided free upon written request.

Can I end my lease early in New York City?

If something comes up in your life, you may find that you need to end your lease early. This can be stressful and very expensive, with most leases including steep penalties and fines for early termination.

Here are some potential options.

Military

Renters who are active military may be able to terminate their lease early under the Service-members Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

The SCRA provides protections for active-duty military members, including the right to terminate a lease early if they receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) or deployment. To terminate a lease early under the SCRA, renters must provide their landlord with written notice and a copy of their orders.

The notice must be provided at least 30 days before the date on which the renter plans to end their lease. 

Subleasing

Renters in buildings with 4 or more apartments have a right to sublet. Subleasing just means someone else is renting the apartment from the renter. The person renting from the renter is called a “subtenant.”

To exercise this right, renters have to follow some rules.

  • The apartment needs to have been their main residence and they have to show that they intend to move back into the apartment at the end of the sublease.  
  • Renters need to tell the subtenant that only the renter has a legal right to renew the lease. The subtenant doesn’t have that legal right.
  • The length of a sublease can be longer than the main renter’s lease. But the main renter can’t sublease for more than two years within any four-year period.

To start a sublease, renters need to send a written request to the landlord by certified mail, return receipt requested. The request has to contain the following information:

  • Length of the sublease
  • Name, home, and business address of the proposed “subtenant”
  • Reason for subleasing
  • Renter’s address during the sublease
  • Written consent of any co-renter
  • A copy of the proposed sublease together with a copy of the renter’s lease, if available.

Within ten days of mailing this request, the landlord may ask the renter for additional information, but can’t ask for information that’s “unduly burdensome.” Within 30 days of mailing the request (or 30 days of the landlord’s request for additional information, whichever is later), the landlord must send the renter a notice of consent, or tell them that consent is denied and the reasons for the denial. If a landlord doesn’t send this written notice, that’s considered consent to sublease.

There are additional rules for rent-stabilized apartments.

  • The rent charged to the subtenant can’t be more than the stabilized rent. Unless the rental is furnished, then the renter can charge 10% more than the stabilized rent.
  • Any rent paid to the landlord during the sublease can only be increased by a “sublet allowance” which is set by the Rent Guidelines Board.
  • A subtenant who is overcharged may file a complaint with DHCR or may sue the main renter in court to recover any overcharge plus interest, attorneys’ fees, and treble damages where applicable.
  • Frequent or prolonged subleasing of a rent-stabilized apartment may be grounds for a landlord to seek possession of the rental unit, so it’s important to follow the rules and not abuse the process.

Seniors and Those with a Disability

Sometimes renters who are seniors or living with disabilities can end their lease without penalty. The renter or their spouse (or dependents who live with them) must be 62 or older, or turn 62 during the term of their leases. Or they can demonstrate that they live with a disability.

To assert this right, renters must send notice to their landlord in writing. That notice must include:

  • Move out date, which has to be at least thirty days after the next rental payment is due.
  • A physician’s certification that the person is no longer able to live independently for medical reasons and will move in with family, or move to housing for seniors or persons living with a disability.
  • For senior citizens breaking a lease, the notice must be accompanied by a notarized statement from a family member. That statement must say that the senior is related to them, and will be moving into their residence for at least six months (or into housing for seniors). If the renter is moving to housing for seniors, the statement must also include either proof of admission or proof that admission is pending.

Survivors of Domestic Violence

If a renter or a member of the renter’s household is a victim of domestic violence and reasonably fears more domestic violence by staying in their apartment, they can end the lease by sending a notice to the landlord.

The notice must be sent at least 30 days before the renter plans to leave and must state that the renter or a member of the renter’s household has experienced domestic violence and believes they can’t safely keep living in the apartment.

Within 25 days of sending the notice, the renter must provide documents proving they are a victim of domestic violence. Examples of those documents include:

  • An order of protection
  • A complaint to law enforcement about domestic violence
  • A record from a health care provider of treatment related to domestic violence
  • Written verification from a qualified third party that they reported domestic violence.

The landlord must keep all documentation and information about the domestic violence confidential or risk being sued. When the renter moves, only people on the lease can keep living in the apartment. 

What can I do to avoid eviction when I’m late on rent in New York City?

In most areas, including New York City, renters can’t be evicted for owing fees. In a non-payment case, renters in New York City can only be evicted for not paying rent.

Only a sheriff or marshal can legally remove a renter. And until a sheriff or marshal comes to an apartment to enforce an eviction, renters can have a non-payment case dismissed if they pay all rent that is owed.

If a renter in New York City loses a housing case and the judge orders their eviction, the renter can ask the court for up to one year to move if they can show that they can’t find a similar apartment in the same neighborhood. This is up to the judge’s discretion. The judge will take into account the renter’s health conditions, whether they have children enrolled in school, the hardship on the landlord if the renter remains, and any other life circumstances that could affect the renter’s ability to move. Renters may be required to continue to pay rent for the months they remain.

How much notice does my landlord have to give before evicting me in New York City?

New York City landlords can’t take a renter to court for non-payment of rent unless they have given the renter a 14-day written “rent demand.” When a renter is evicted the landlord must give the renter a reasonable amount of time to remove all belongings, and the landlord can’t keep the renter’s personal belongings or furniture without the renter’s permission. 

Where can I get help if I’m being evicted in New York City?

For more information about how eviction protections might apply to them, renters can contact New York City’s Tenant Helpline by calling 311 and saying “Tenant Helpline.” Renters can also visit the NYC Tenant Resource Portal, the City’s online resource to help residential renters access free resources from the to help prevent evictions.

What can I do if my landlord harasses me or discriminates against me in New York City?

Anyone who has been discriminated against should contact The Department of Housing and Urban Development within one year of the alleged discrimination. In New York City, renters can also file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights within one year from when the discrimination happened.

Rent-regulated tenants who feel they have been victimized by harassment should contact the Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

New York City renters may sue in housing court and the court may issue restraining orders against landlords if violations are found. Renters may also choose to sue for damages against a landlord who violates the law and may recover attorney’s fees if successful. In New York City, Landlords found guilty of harassment are subject to fines of up to $2,000 for the first offense and up to $10,000 for each subsequent offense. Sometimes harassment of a rent-regulated tenant is a felony. Before deciding to sue, renters should talk with an attorney. 

SixFifty can help

 Now that you know your rights as a renter in New York City, what can you do next? Take action!

SixFifty built HelloLandlord with the University of Arizona and Brigham Young University as a free resource for people who can’t afford legal help. You can use HelloLandlord to:

  • Make a plan with your landlord to avoid eviction
  • Request repairs
  • Ask for a copy of your lease
  • Get your security deposit refund

Tens of thousands of Americans have used HelloLandlord to assert their rights for free.

It only takes 5 minutes to generate a high-quality letter—the kind of letter a lawyer would write. And we offer discount codes so you can send your letter by mail, right from your computer.

SixFifty is building more tools to help renters all the time. For more information, email probono@sixfifty.com.

 Sources

NYC Housing Enforcement, Penalties and Fees

New York Senate, Warranty of Habitability,

Legal Aid Society, Repair Rights

New York City Division of Housing and Community Renewal