Landlord Obligations Tenants Rights in New York City: Utilities, Repairs, Safety

  1. Life as a New York City tenant can be quite stressful. Your landlord should make every effort to ensure that your basic tenants’ rights are protected - your rights to a safe, comfortable and lawful environment. This includes working heat, hot water, timely repairs and privacy. Every tenant should know their rights to what their landlord is legally obligated to provide.

    Heat and Hot Water

    Building owners must heat your unit during the winter season, which is defined as October 1st through May 31st. Your landlord must provide hot water all year round. Between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, the interior of the premises must be at least 68 degrees Farenheit if the temperature outside falls below 55 degrees. Between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, the interior of the premises must be at least 55 degrees Farenheit if the temperature outside falls below 40 degrees. The tenant should contact the building owner, manager or superintendent promptly if these requirements are not met. Tenants should also keep a written diary of the time and date of their communications as well as the conditions in the premises. If heat is not restored in a timely fashion after tenants have notified the landlord or appropriate party, the tenant should call the New York City Customer Service Center at the number below in the "Reporting Problems" section of this article.

    Repairs to the Premises and Property

    All apartments and public areas in your building must be kept in good repair. This means that all systems or appliances behave as expected and in a safe manner. This includes proper maintenance of all of the following: electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating and ventilation systems. Repair requirements also include appliances installed by the landlord, such as refrigerators and stoves. A landlord must install functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the tenant's apartment. And all publicly accessible common areas must also be kept in good repair and be safe for tenants and other persons who may access these areas.

    Lead Paint

    Since lead paint is considered a serious health hazard, your landlord must keep your apartment free of lead paint dangers. Any work that could disturb lead paint in an apartment or common area must be performed by trained workers who have successfully taken a course on lead paint safety. Any wall or surface with peeling lead paint must be removed or permanently covered by the landlord. Additionally, landlords must keep all records pertaining to notices, inspections, and/or repairs of lead paint conditions and provide each tenant with an informational pamphlet from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

    Entering Your Home and Unlawful Eviction

    There are valid reasons for when a landlord may enter a tenant’s apartment in New York City:
    • Emergency repairs (no advance notice required)
    • Non-emergency repairs or improvements (at least one week’s advance written notice required)
    • Apartment inspections (at least 24 hours advance written notice required)
    You may not be evicted from your apartment without an official warrant of eviction. It is illegal for a landlord to change the locks to your apartment without providing you a new key. Such unlawful evictions should be reported to your local police precinct and brought before the New York City Housing Court.

    Reporting Problems

    If your landlord fails to provide the basic living conditions mentioned above or address incidents in a timely fashion, you may report your problems to the New York City Customer Service Center by calling 311 (accessible from outside New York City at (212) NEW-YORK). The hearing impaired may dial the TTY number at (212) 504-4115. The Center is open 24/7.

    Emergency Conditions

    Should an emergency arise (e.g., severe leaks, mold, or hazardous structural defects), the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is authorized to dispatch a uniformed Code Enforcement Inspector to the premises for verification. After the inspection, you will be provided with these materials:
    • A summary of issued violations
    • A complaint number
    • Date of inspection
    • The Inspector’s bade number
    • Brochures detailing your rights and responsibilities as well as the most common violations issued by HPD

    Your landlord will also be notified, with repair instructions accompanying verified violations. Should your landlord fail to act immediately to correct problematic conditions, HPD may dispatch Emergency Repair Program crew to repair your apartment, billing your landlord.

    You can check the status of emergency repair work in your apartment by calling (212) 863-5510.

    Taking Action Against a Landlord

    If your problem persists or if your landlord refuses to make repairs, you or a group of tenants may take direct legal action by filing a case with the New York City Housing Court against the building owner. This type of case is called an HP Action, which are covered in detail on the HPD / Department of Housing Preservation and Development website. For serious violations, you may also wish to consult with a landlord tenant attorney.
    Landlord Tenant Law:
    Tenant's Rights
    Jurisdiction:
    • New York

    Michael M. Wechsler

    Michael M. Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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