If you have any experience as a rental tenant, you know how difficult it can be to deal with a stubborn landlord who doesn’t either know the law or refuses to uphold his or her end of the lease. New York City landlords are particularly notorious for trying to bend the laws when their tenants don’t know their rights.
Today, let’s look at the most important tenants’ rights that you should know if you plan to rent in NYC.
Safe and Well-Maintained: What Does It Really Mean?
There’s one big lot always keep in mind when you’re New York City tenant: you have the right to a well-maintained and safe building. But what does this actually mean, especially since landlords will try to fly things under the radar from time to time?
The law actually states that safe and well-maintained buildings are those free from:
- pests like bugs or rats
- poisonous materials
- hazardous conditions of any kind
Note that hazardous conditions also extend to a lack of safety features, like smoke detectors and window guards. A good rule of thumb is that if something doesn’t provide a safe and well-maintained apartment, you can force your landlord to fix it.
What Are New York City Housing Violations?
If you do ever decide to press charges against your landlord or take them to court, it’s good to understand what housing violations are. Housing violations broadly fall into a few categories:
- Class A violations are not hazardous and can be fixed within 90 days
- Class B violations are hazardous and have to be fixed within 30 days
- Class C violations are the most serious and need to be fixed immediately
If a landlord doesn’t fix the outlying issue within any of the qualifying time frames, they can face steep penalties. We’d recommend familiarizing yourself with New York City housing violations law so you know what violation to reference if you ever need your landlord to fix something ASAP.
Heating Season – Landlords’ Requirements
Beginning renters are often hesitant about pressing the issue when it comes to heating. But landlords have a lawful requirement to provide heating from October 1 to May 31. Specifically, New York City law states:
- if daytime temperatures outside go below 55°, temperatures inside an apartment must be 68°
- at night, the inside temperature must be 62° regardless of outside temperature
These rules are in effect from the beginning of October to the end of May regardless of what your landlord thinks about the weather.
Furthermore, all landlords must provide hot water 24 hours a day and seven days a week. There are no exceptions to this requirement. You can request that your landlord fix the issue immediately if you don’t get hot water at any point.
Use these laws to force the issue if your landlord tries to be cheap about the heating bill. It’s your comfort we’re talking about!
Notifying Tenants About Bedbugs
Another big landlord requirement is bedbug notification. More specifically, landlords have to tell new tenants if bedbugs were reported within the last year. It’s a good idea to always ask this specific question you’re looking into starting with a new apartment.
If you discover bedbugs in your apartment, this Class B (reference the chart mentioned above) violation demands a resolution within 30 days or a landlord may face steep penalties. You can also take your landlord the court if they fail to stop bedbugs from showing up again.
Bedbugs are a serious issue. Don’t let your landlord tell them that handling such infestations are beyond their purview.
Rent Raising and Freezing
We all know that the New York City rental market’s prices are out of control. Still, there are strict rules determining how much your landlord can legally raise your rent every year.
New York City law states that landlords can raise rents at the end of any lease period, although the amount they can raise them depends on the type of housing. If you aren’t living in a rent-regulated unit, it’s up to your landlord’s discretion.
This being said, landlords have to give at least 30 days’ notice if they want to raise your rent by more than 5% or if they don’t want to offer a lease renewal. If you’ve already been renting from them for between one and two years, this timeframe extends to 60 days. Over two years and it goes up to 90 days.
Don’t let apartment landlords jerk you around when it comes to raising rent unexpectedly!
If you do happen to live in a rent-stabilized apartment, landlords have to give you the option for lease renewal and at least 90 days before the lease ends. In these cases, rent can only go up by a certain amount that is decided by NYC itself.
One last note: anyone over the age of 62 or anyone who is currently disabled might be able to freeze their rent. You should look into the NYC rent freeze program requirements to see if you are eligible.
Rent History Requests
All tenants for rent-stabilized units have the right to request rental histories. This is a good place to look for records if you suspect that your landlord is going above the legally allowed rent raising limit.
Never let a landlord tell you that you can’t form a tenants’ association or another group with other tenants in a building. These collectives can make for powerful bargaining chips with landlords that don’t have the best interests of their tenants at heart.
Anytime you want a meeting, just be sure it happens in a common area, as landlords cannot prevent meetings in these locations.
Security Deposit Laws in New York City
Recent security deposit laws have come into effect, so be sure you are familiar with them:
- landlords must return a security deposit within 14 days of a lease’s termination
- landlords can only collect one month’s rent for the security deposit, not the first month and last month
- all landlords must present an itemized list for any security deposit deductions made for ostensible fixes
Be sure your landlord follows these rules to the letter.
Documentation is Key
We leave you with one final tip instead of a law – document everything that goes on between you and your landlord, and especially if there’s ever an item of contention or disagreement. You may need to present evidence in a court of law if you ever press a lawsuit or need them to fix something in your apartment. Keeping your notes of everything that happens is the best way to sway the judge to your side of things.
The rental market is fierce and dealing with stubborn landlords is never fun. But if you’re armed with the above legal knowledge, you’ll be more than up to the task!