Did you know that landlords are prohibited from refusing to rent to a potential tenant based on prior landlord-tenant litigation or tenant screening reports?

Also, landlords can’t charge apartment application fees, and the maximum amount for background and credit checks is $20. Even at that, the fee must be waived if the prospective tenant provides a recent copy(30 days) of their background and credit check.

Knowledge is power especially in a place like New York, where renting is a herculean task. During your stay (or even when you’re finding the apartment) you need to be well versed with rental laws, so you can get exactly what you signed up for.

And if you don’t know them yet, no worries. That’s what we’re here for! In this blog, we’ll be sharing a list of landlord responsibilities and renters’ rights in NYC. Let’s get started!

Tenants Laws & Rights in NYC

1. Broker’s Fee

Paying a broker fee on top of the 40x rent rule to rent in NYC can be super expensive. Broker’s fees in NYC are generally between 10 to 15 percent of the annual rent.

The thing is, if you don’t want to deal with a broker, you can opt for no-fee apartments in NYC. This means that the landlord will pay a fee to the broker who assists with the listing.

If you’re being charged additional fees (commonly called ‘key money’) above the standard rent, security deposit, or broker fees, your rights are being infringed upon. Key money is illegal and you shouldn’t be subjected to paying such fees.

2. Rent control and stabilization in NYC

Rent-stabilized apartments protect tenants from excessive rent hikes, making apartments slightly more affordable. On the other hand, rent-controlled apartments are not available for rent for everyone. They can only be passed to family members.

Before moving into a rent-stabilized apartment, request for the apartment’s rent history to ensure you’re not being charged higher than usual. You should also be guaranteed a lease renewal at the end of the lease term.

Living in a rent-stabilized apartment means that increase in apartment rental fees is regulated and landlords cannot increase the rent price anyway they like.

3. Right to form a tenants’ association

If you find yourself living in an apartment with too many issues, you have the right to form an association with your fellow tenants. This way, you can achieve strength in numbers and ensure that the landlord doesn’t escape his responsibilities.

4. Reporting issues on time

As a tenant, try not to hold off issues about your rental situation until it’s too late. Reporting your problems to the landlord or property manager on time can help solve them sooner.

You can report to the housing department if you voice out your complaints repeatedly and nothing is being done to fix them.

5. Security deposit regulations

In NYC, your landlord is never allowed to charge more than one month of rent for a security deposit. The deposit must be returned in full within 14 days of the termination of your lease. However, this only applies when no damage was done to the apartment.

If any amount is withheld by the landlord for damage repairs, he has to submit an itemized list of any deductions made for those fixes.

6. Required landlord disclosures

Before signing a lease in New York, the landlord has to give you certain information about the rental unit. These are known as mandatory disclosures and if not presented while renting, you can request to see them by law. These include:

  • Lead paint hazards: This is for all the landlords owning properties that were built before 1978. You can request to see the Lead Paint disclosure form when signing your lease.
  • Presence of bedbugs: The landlord needs to share the history of bed bug infestation with the tenant.
  • Authorized parties: You have the right to know the names and addresses of all parties involved in the ownership or management of the property.
  • Security deposit information: Landlords should disclose the location of any security deposits in their possession throughout the tenant’s lease.
  • Functioning fire sprinkler system: Tenants should know whether the fire sprinkler system is fully operational.

7. Using a co-signer?

A co-signer is a person who signs a lease agreement with you, though they don’t live in the property. They ensure the landlord(legally) that they will pay the rent, in case you can’t.

If you don’t have a good credit score, or you’re a student without a means of employment, then your best bet is using a co-signer.

It’s advisable to ask a family member or close friend who’s capable to act as an apartment co-signer.

8. Pet and animal laws

Tenants are allowed to keep pets in their apartments unless their lease specifically prohibits it. If tenants violate the lease’s provision forbidding pets, it can be a basis for eviction.

Refusing a service animal for tenants with psychiatric or physical disabilities is not permitted even if the clause has a no-pet policy.

Also, many animals cannot be kept legally as pets in NYC. Always check with your landlord and describe your pets, age, temperament, and breed. You can also call 311 to get further information on pet regulations.

9. The right to have roommates or subletters

If you are a New York City tenant, you can bring in a roommate even though the person’s name isn’t on the lease. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a relative or not.

In addition, you have a right to sublease your room legally. This applies to tenants in privately-owned buildings that house four or more apartments. You also have to sublet for 30 days (or longer). Take note that these rules don’t apply to rent-controlled apartments.

Here’s what you should do if you wish to sublet:

  1. Send a written request to your landlord by certified mail, return receipt requested. Your request should contain:
  • the length of the sublease;
  • the name, home, and business address of the proposed subtenant;
  • the reason for subletting;
  • the tenant’s address during the sublet;
  • the written consent of any co-tenant or guarantor;
  • a copy of the proposed sublease together with a copy of the tenant’s lease, if available.
  1. Your landlord may ask for additional information within ten days of you mailing your request.
  2. Within 30 days of mailing your sublet request, the landlord is required to send you a notice of consent. If consent is denied, there must be reasons for the denial. If your landlord fails to send this written notice, it is automatically considered a consent to sublet.

10. Right to a day in court without eviction

You can’t be evicted from your apartment without your day in court. Your landlord is to state reasons for eviction, including non-payment of rent or lease violation.

If these issues aren’t resolved, the landlord is legally allowed to take the tenant to court. Only when the judge has ruled in favor of the landlord can a tenant be removed from the apartment.

11. Small Claims lawsuit

The Small Claims Court is an NYC court for cases where the monetary amount sought is less than $5,000. Commonly called the “People’s Court,” the Small Claims Court is affordable and accessible to people of all backgrounds. You also don’t need to hire a lawyer.

As a tenant, you can use the Small Claims Court to recover an unreturned security deposit. If deductions to a security deposit can’t be solved with the landlord, tenants can also take the case up in Court.

Small Claims Court process:

  • You should be able to explain your reason for the case properly, and the amount you’re requesting (remember, nothing more than $5,000).
  • To start your process, acquire a court form from a Small Claims Court clerk in your county and fill it out.
  • You can file the form at the clerk’s office or by mail.
  • To open a case for claims of up to $1,000, you need to pay a small fee of $15. For cases of $1,000 to $5,000, the fee is $20.
  • After your case is filed, wait for the court to notify you on whether they will move forward with the case or not.

12. Tenant’s right to withhold rent

Landlords must keep their rental properties in a good and safe state. If they fail to do this, tenants have the right to withhold rent until they fulfill their responsibilities.

13. Document and record interactions

Landlord disputes with tenants are almost always inevitable. For example, you may have been clamoring for an apartment repair without a solution from your landlord.

Be sure to take notes or pictures and keep records of whatever issues you’ve been having, especially the ones that may give you an edge during a court case. You could also document your attempts to contact your landlord.

14. The right to habitable housing

In NYC, it’s a legal right of the tenant to live in a habitable dwelling provided by the landlord. As a renter, one of the most important questions to ask your landlord is whether the necessary apartment features are to be present.

Landlords are also supposed to maintain their rental property safely and decently. They should respond to repair requests without delay.

Landlord Responsibilities

1. No harassment and discrimination of tenants

Fair Housing laws in NYC prohibit landlords from discriminating against renters based on their religion, gender, race, nationality, income type, or sexual orientation. Harassment in the form of verbal or physical abuse, consistent withholding of services, or persistent physical or mental intimidation is also illegal.

The law also provides that renters with disabilities are qualified for amenities that allow ease of access into their homes.

2. No changing of locks without giving the resident the key

It’s illegal for a landlord to change locks on your apartment without giving you a key. This act is a clear violation of the Unlawful Eviction Law, especially in situations when:

  • the landlord does not have a warrant of eviction
  • a resident is a tenant or subtenant with a lease,
  • the resident is an occupant who has lawfully lived in the apartment for more than thirty days (with or without the lease),
  • a subtenant or roommate has lived in the apartment for at least thirty days (even if the person is not on the lease).

In some cases, you can ask your landlord to change the locks if you don’t have a standard apartment security system. This way, you’ll keep out previous tenants who may have an extra set of keys for your home.

3. No unwarranted entering of a tenant’s home

Tenants have the right to privacy within their apartments. Generally, landlords do not enter a tenant’s home anytime they wish. There are exceptions to this, however. Landlords may visit their tenant’s apartment with prior notice at a reasonable time, with the tenant’s consent to provide necessary repairs and services, or per the lease.

4. Apartment repairs

Landlords and property managers make sure that your apartment is void of any faults or malfunctions.

In the case of any malfunction, the landlord has to respond to the tenant’s repair notice if it’s a legitimate request. Three things happen when a landlord fails to rectify the issue: the tenant may choose to withhold rent, use their Repair and Deduct rights, or seek legal advice.

Landlords are responsible for fixing broken heating, plumbing issues, leaking roofs, broken doors/windows/ceilings, and any other appliance added to the lease.

5. Extermination of vermin

Property owners are to provide an environment free from such pests as roaches, mice, and bedbugs. Keeping apartments clean and safe from these uninvited guests is an unnegotiable responsibility of NYC landlords.

Tenants shouldn’t sign a bed bugs addendum unless they’re certain of the absence of these pests. The addendum comes with rules such as agreements regarding pest control fees, attorney fees, etc.

6. Post the required signs and notices

Landlords need to inform the tenants of important circumstances by posting signs and notices in the buildings. Some of them include:

  • Fire safety notices

Apartment building owners of more than 3 units are obligated to post an Emergency Preparedness Notice inside every rented unit. They should be posted on the entrance doors and in the lobby or common area.

  • Garbage collection notice

A tamper-proof sign with the hours and method of garbage collection clearly stated should be posted in the lobby. If the building has a 24-hour dumbwaiter service, this isn’t necessary.

  • Certificate of inspection visits

Landlords are to provide a 6″ x 9” frame issued by the Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) inspector who visits the property. If a mailbox is present, the notice should be posted near the box between 48″ and 62″ above floor height.

  • Gas leak notice

Property managers and landlords should provide tenants with a notice that properly spells out the procedures to follow in case of a suspected gas leak.

Gas leak notices are to be delivered to every tenant and prospective tenant with lease and lease renewal forms. They should also be posted in a common area.

The rental agreement or lease that a landlord and tenant sign sets the basis for their relationship and interactions. Important details, including the lease duration, amount of rent, or even what to do when a tenant decides on breaking a lease before moving in should be spelled out.

Under federal, state, and local landlord-tenant laws, a lease provides all the legal rules that a landlord and tenant must follow. Any illegal clauses or waivers on the lease can lead to problems.

8. Responsible for the public safety of tenants

Landlords must provide basic safety. This includes locks on doors, apartment security systems, and working intercoms. Public safety should also be given high priority, in the form of:

  • Lead paint: Property owners are to investigate and get rid of lead-based paint hazards in their rental units.
  • Smoke detectors: Smoke detectors and at least one approved carbon monoxide detector should be installed in each unit. These should be installed within 15 feet of the primary entrance to each bedroom. However, tenants are responsible for the maintenance of these detectors.
  • Window guards: For buildings with three or more apartments, NYC requires that approved window guards be installed on all windows, including first-floor bathrooms, windows leading to a terrace or balcony, in common areas, and in units occupied by children who are 10 years of age or younger.
  • Outlet covers: In the public areas of apartment buildings with 3 or more units, electrical outlets should have outlet covers, caps, or other safety devices over the openings.

9. Comply with state rent rules

If landlords want to raise rent prices or evict a tenant who hasn’t paid rent, they need to follow the specific state rules in NYC.

10. Use correct procedures to evict a tenant

In New York, it’s illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant through any means except by obtaining a court order from a judge. There are correct and standard procedures set down for legal eviction of tenants.

11. Heat and Hot Water

NYC landlords are legally obligated to provide a tenant’s right regarding hot water. Hot water should be available all year round, at a constant temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat should also be dutifully provided throughout the winter season, from the period of October 1st to May 31st.

What happens when you’re denied these rights?

Housing complaints in NYC are filed according to the rental units.

  1. Private buildings: If you’re living in a private building, you can make anonymous complaints about maintenance problems at any time. However, this is only if the complaint is affecting the whole building. You can file this complaint by dialing 311 or using NYC’s Online Form for Maintenance Complaints.
  2. Rent-stabilized apartments: Renters who stay in rent-stabilized apartments feel their rights aren’t being met can direct their complaints to the Department of Home and Community Renewal at 718-739-6400.
  3. Public housing: Public housing tenants can contact the NYCHA Section 8 hotline at 718-707-7771. Another option is using their online form: NYCHA Customer Contact Center.

To address maintenance complaints, you can take the following steps:

  1. The NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) provides a guide to Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities. You can even file a Complaint with HPD; HPD in turn can fine your landlord or order him to make the repairs. The process may take time if the problem isn’t urgent.
  2. If very necessary, you can make the repair yourself and deduct the cost from your rent. Keep in mind that this may result in a lawsuit for non-payment of rent, so ensure you have good reasons.
  3. If you live in a rent-stabilized apartment, file a complaint about “decreased services” with NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), which administers state rent laws.
  4. If the maintenance problems are very serious, you can file an HP Action in Housing Court by visiting the clerk’s office in the Civil Court. The clerk will then help you file the necessary paperwork and schedule an apartment inspection by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (“HPD”).

Roomi lets you in on everything you need about your rights as a tenant in NYC — but there’s more! With our mobile app, you can find the apartment of your dreams without the broker fee.