As a tenant renting in New York City, you have the right to live in a home that is safe provides a comfortable environment throughout all four seasons. It is your landlord’s legal duty to provide the basic services that will present you with a decent living environment. By better understanding tenant resources and rights along with basic landlord responsibilities, you will be a more informed and educated tenant.
According to the Office Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate for the City of New York, landlords have a variety of important responsibilities to their properties and the tenants that reside in them:
- Heat and Hot Water: New York City building owners have a legal responsibility to provide heat throughout the winter season, extending from October 1st to May 31st. Hot water will be provided year-round.
- Duty to Repair: Landlords are responsible for keeping the public area of a building and individual apartments in “good repair.” This means that they are sanitary and free of garbage, vermin, and other material that may be deemed offensive. Landlords will be required to maintain heating, sanitary, plumbing, ventilating, and electrical systems, and all appliances installed by the landlord will be in safe working order. Functioning carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are required in all apartments.
- Clearing Lead Paint Hazards: A landlord has the duty to ensure apartments are free of lead paint hazards, which can cause severe health problems for residents. When applicable, landlords must hire trained workers with experience in lead-safe work practices to remove or cover walls and other areas in which lead-based paint may be peeling.
- Entering a Home: Landlords in New York City can only enter the apartment of a tenant for an emergency repair, non-emergency improvements and repairs, and apartment inspections. An emergency repair will require no advanced notice, but non-emergency improvements and repairs require an advance notice of at least one week. Inspections require a 24 hour notice in writing.
- Unlawful Eviction: A landlord must not evict a tenant without a proper eviction warrant. For example, should a landlord change the locks on an apartment without providing the tenant with a new key, it may be considered an unlawful eviction. All unlawful evictions should be taken to the New York City Housing Court or reported to the local police precinct.
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Commonly Provided Maintenance
New York City landlords provide a variety of maintenance services designed to allow residents to live in a safe and comfortable environment. Some of the most commonly provided maintenance activities include the following:
- HVAC repairs, such as faulty or broken heating or air conditioning systems.
- Broken apartment appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, and garbage disposals.
- Broken community appliances, such as an elevator or the washer/dryer in a shared laundry facility.
- Plumbing issues, including leaks from sinks or toilets.
- Changing light bulbs, either in individual apartments or in public areas.
- Electrical issues, including power failures, which are commonly due to an overloaded circuit.
Inadequately Provided Maintenance
If your apartment is experiencing a maintenance problem that is affecting the entire building, you can make an anonymous complaint with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Some of the most common complaints against landlords regarding inadequately provided maintenance include:
- No hot water
- Windows that are stuck closed or open
- Ceilings or walls with cracks, holes, and water leaks
- Unsanitary conditions due to pests or mold
- Electrical problems such as defective outlets or no lighting
- Missing or broken intercoms, buzzers, or doorbells
- Stairs or floors that are unsafe or damaged
- Plumbing problems with toilets, showers, bathtubs, or sinks
- Shut off cooking gas
- Major safety issues, including missing smoke detectors or blocked/broken fire escapes
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Recording Landlord Interaction
If you are having a dispute with your landlord, there are some helpful tips that you can follow to record your interactions. Contacting your local center for tenant resources can also provide advice on how to record your landlord interactions.
- Keep Copies of Received Notices: Whether your landlord is coming in to do an inspection or will be modifying your lease, it is important to keep a copy of any notice that you might receive. This could be helpful if a dispute arises later on down the road.
- Take Pictures: If your apartment has experienced damage or is in some state of disrepair, taking pictures can be helpful for documenting the problem. You can use these pictures to fully explain the extent of the issue to your landlord, or if necessary, these images could serve as important evidence in future complaints or legal proceedings.
- Document Your Attempts to Contact Your Landlord: If you have a problem that you would like your landlord to resolve, it is important to document your attempts to contact him. Send written requests and keep copies of the documents. You could have a good case for lodging a complaint if you have ample evidence that you tried to contact your landlord and no action was taken to resolve your problem.
If your landlord fails to provide services that maintain the basic essential services needed for you to live comfortably, you can report the problem by contacting 311 or the City’s Citizen Service Center, which is open 24/7. If the problem persists or if your landlord refuses to correct the conditions, you can take direct legal action by filing a complaint known as an HP Action with the New York City Housing Court.