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Ten tenant rights your landlord doesn’t want you to know

Written by
Jennifer Picht

Unless you’re the sole proprietor of any living space in New York, then you have a landlord (a.k.a. that dude or dudette who receives the bulk earnings of your paycheck every month). Yeah, in some cases, renting an apartment in New York is no picnic. In fact, it can be downright stressful—especially if your studio is in poor condition and if your landlord is, well, a dick. But you know what? You have rights! You’re entitled to live safely and comfortably whether it's an expensive or affordable apartment in NYC, and your landlord has a legal duty to make sure of it.

So here are ten rights your landlord probably doesn’t want you to know (with contributions from the Time Out New York staff). Keep this list handy, it's basically your New York guide to life. 

1. You legally have the right to ask the landlord, repairman or anyone else to leave your apartment at any time (Castle Doctrine).

2. The landlord must give adequate notice (at least 48 hours) before entering a tenant’s property, and may only do so without notice if there's an emergency. 

3. You can check the 311 website to see how many complaints were issued (and what they were about) for your address.

4. You can get a background check on your landlord and the property company by asking the building or management office.

5. Rent can be negotiable—though your landlord’s corporation and receptiveness will differ!

6. If a bedroom doesn’t have a closet or a window, then it is not a “legal” bedroom and could be considered a firetrap. 

7. If there are serious repairs that affect your health and safety, you may legally withhold rent. We’ve all heard of the case where the woman won millions over stupid repairs, right? 

8. Want to know if your building is rent stabilized? Well, there's a website for that:

9. What’s the worst thing that could happen to any renter? Two words: Bed bugs. Your landlord is legally required to get rid of those gruesome pests within 30 days, and must cover the cost of extermination. 

10. You can bad-mouth your apartment and landlord to your mom, the police, the media—anyone! As long as you're honest, of course. But your landlord cannot threaten you by decreasing service, increasing rent or preventing you from renewing your lease. 

Disclaimer: We're here to help, but please make sure to consult your own attorney for legal advice before taking any action!  

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