New York Renters Rights

Over 8 million people live within the 5 very individual boroughs that make up New York. A lot are renting – and it can be a costly business. It’s no secret that New York City is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

So, with rent so high, what kind of legal protection do you get for your money? Well the good news is that New York law is in plcae to protect your rights and it’s a tough job to evict a tenant. The bad news? Landlords can be very choosy about their tenants.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most important rights you enjoy as a tenant.

Privacy and Quiet Enjoyment

In a big, bustling, noisy city we all need some ‘me’ time. That’s one of the reasons you’ve got the right to both privacy and quiet enjoyment of your home. That means the landlord has to give you reasonable notice if they want to enter your property.

The right to quiet enjoyment means if other tenants are being a pain and disrupting your life, you can take action - either by getting the landlord to step in, or going to the police and courts if necessary.

A Healthy and Safe Residence

So, exactly what is a healthy and safe residence? Well, all locks on doors and windows must be in proper working order. Mold, mildew growth and pests must be controlled or eliminated. And you’ve got to be able to get in and out without falling down the steps, having bits of brownstone falling on your head, dealing with deadbeats loitering around or stepping over piles of garbage.

Then there’s the question of personal safety. Your landlord is obliged to provide a secure mailbox, working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and, if you’ve got an elevator, it must have a mirror inside so you can check if anyone is in there before you enter.

Repairs

Certain repair clauses are (or should be) written into your lease. Your landlord is responsible for maintaining and repairing electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating and ventilating systems and any appliances they’ve installed, like refrigerators and stoves. You’ve got a right to ask them to fix stuff – providing it wasn’t you that broke it - and if they refuse, you can complain to the housing board and terminate the lease, or repair it yourself and withhold rent.

Entering Your Home

It may be a rental, but it’s your private space too. So, as a general rule your landlord can only enter your apartment for three reasons: emergency repairs, non-emergency repairs or improvements, and apartment inspections. If it’s a proper emergency repair - like the pipes break and the whole Hudson is flowing through your walkup – the landlord can make immediate entry with no notice. If it’s a standard repair you’ve got to have a minimum of one week’s advance written notice. If the landlord simply wants to inspect your property they’ve got to give you a minimum of 24 hours written notice.

Eviction

A landlord can’t evict you from your apartment without a proper warrant of eviction. You can contest this and counter sue if the landlord is trying to evict you because you made a complaint, withheld rent for repairs or ended the lease because the landlord broke the clauses in it. It’s against the law if the landlord changes the locks to your apartment without giving you new keys and you should report them to your local police or the New York City Housing Court.

Heat & Hot Water

New York City is full of highs and lows – the temperature included. Summers can be sweltering, winters freezing.  That’s why the law requires your landlord to offer you a warm welcome when you get home by providing heat during the winter season (from October 1st through May 31st), or if the outdoor temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. They also have to make sure you have hot water year-round.

Reporting a Problem in Your Apartment

If your landlord doesn’t live up to his responsibilities you can report the problem to the City's Citizen Service Center by calling 311 (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK). For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115. The Center is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Make sure you’re protected

The law is there to protect you – and your landlord – to which we gave you a small introduction here. To learn more, it may be worth getting professional help if you need it. A good resource could a pro bono tenancy lawyer or a really good real estate agent familiar with your target rental geography.

One other bit of advice is to consider Renters Insurance. That’s not just because we sell it. It’s because we know renters’ belongings aren’t covered by their landlord’s insurance. And that means their personal possessions are at stake if the worst happens.

For example, your landlord’s insurance will take care of the physical damage to the property in the event of a fire. It won’t cover your clothes, furniture, DVDs, CDs, TV and much more.  Worse still, if you cause the fire by accident, you could be liable for the damages caused, not just to your rental, but to your neighbor’s property too.

Less than a dollar a day* can give you the peace of mind of knowing that you’re covered for:

  • Theft, fire, wind, smoke and vandalism coverage
  • Water damage liability protection for your unit
  • Personal liability coverage

Ready to find out more? Check out our New York Renters Insurance benefits today.

*Based on a national average cost of $10,000 personal property coverage, $50,000 personal liability coverage, $250 deductible, and replacement cost. Visit our website for an exact quote based on your state and the amount of coverage you need.


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