News / City Life

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

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

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: amirentstabilized.com

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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Comments

35 comments
mark s

Thank for sharing this article and appreciate helpful information for article.

Lindsey H

The house my boyfriend and I rent a room in has been under condemnation for about 3 weeks. We are completely caught up on rent (even having paid rent AFTER the condemnation sign was posted by the City Housing Authority). We also do NOT have a deposit of any kind that would need asessed/returned. Do we legally need to tell him the date we plan on being completely out? I ask because someone (who has to be another person renting a room in the same house) falsely told our landlord that I'm suing him for something; which I COULD do, but it's not worth my time, money, and emotional stress, so he has been pretty abusive through text (which I believe qualifies as harassment and landlord retaliation). We have had no contact with him in several days, and WERE told by a lawyer to just say nothing at all and move out. I'm just double checking opinions on whether or not I'm supposed to, because we really don't want to speak with him, and definitely want to avoid any confrontation.

JD

@Lindsey H If you have NOTHING in writing, no lease or rental agreement and no deposit to get back than you CAN just move out whenever you want and you do NOT have to notify the slumlord!

You also do NOT have to pay rent on a condemned building! 

It IS illegal for that landlord to even be renting a condemned building/apartment!

Most likely, seeing how there is nothing in writing, he either doesn't even own the building or it IS an illegal apartment!

chantel M

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JD

@chantel M Wow, stupid spam! you should be banned for spamming like a moron!

Gary Seven

Hey, this is the price you pay for living in a closet at $2,500 a month.  At least you have the freedom to name your pet rat or cockroach, who was a tenant before you moved in. 

JD

@Gary Seven LOL Love how you give the insects and rodents tenant hierarchy!

"They were here first" sorta stuff, always comedic gold!

BTW, the only "rats" I've ever seen here in NYC (and I was born here over 50 years ago) are down in the subways, or living up in Harlem, or working as lawyers, judges and M.D.'s, or at the DMV!

Sarah M

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Olga B

I am renting a home with land, its horse property. I've been renting this place now for 18 years. I originally had two horses when I moved in but sadly two years later one of mine died from old age. My landlord was kind of enough to bring over one of her horses because my horse started to crib from being lonely. Then about five years later. I came home and found another horse on my property that she had taken upon herself to bring over and set up a corral for him without asking my premision. I called and question her about it and I was told then that the horse was from a rescued shelter and she didn't have anymore room on her property and she assured me that the horse wouldn't be here for long because she was adopting him out. The fellowing year my husband got brain cancer and I was spending a lot of time in and out of hospitals with him and unfortunately, I'd no longer had the time for my horse. I sold him to my landlord and she kept him on my property. Which I was very grateful for because I could still got to see him in between hospital stays. My husband passed away a year later and I fell into a deep depression and because of it I now have a lot of medical issues. Its now five years later and the horse is still here but never been an issue. But recently there was a huge fire in the next city over from us and they had ordered an evacuation and these poor farmers had no place to put their live stock. My landlord decided to help them out and brought over five more horses onto my property. In the morning when I woke up, I notice my horse was missing. I drove over to my landlord's property to see if she had taken him. When I couldn't find him, I called her and she explained yes she had taken him over to her side. I was devasted and begged her to please bring him back and I explained my panic disorder and even offered to buy him back. She told me no bc she wanted these other horse on my land to be all together. I ended up in the hospital from a horrible panic attack where my throat seized shut. They had to give a shot and I when was finally released. I notice she still had not brought him back. I laid in my bed crying so hard you would think someone had died. Having server depression is horrible. Later that day, I heard my landlord on my property so I got out of bed and again I explained my panic disorder and offered to buy my horse back. She told me no and that I should start looking for another place to live if my health is so important to me than the other horses. I then reply how offended I am by her comments and that I've been a great tenant always paid my rent on time, I've never given her a problem and I pay for all the repairs on the hose plus I have been letting her used the property that I'm paying rent on for free... My question is, does she have the right to continue to use the property I'm paying rent on meaning the pasture since I've have never unforced her to stop in the previous years? At least until she serves me a written 60 day notice asking for her property back and I gone.

Paul B

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DD R

Thank you for the article.  A lot of people here seem pro landlord or don't believe the landlord is the bad one in this situation.  People need to make peace that there are SOME bad landlords out there and a few bad apples...you know the rest.  Nothing in this article says tenants are perfect.  Stick to the facts of the article and what it's about. 


We are talking, in this article, about tenant rights.  Sadly, most tenants, myself included, didn't know or don't know their rights and go through months of stress from harassment.  Your home is your sanctuary and it can't be if you have a landlord who doesn't know their place and doesn't create a fit living environment for their tenants.  


And I have had a few landlords male and female, some in the game for a couple of years, some for decades, some who own several buildings or just one who didn't know, made believe or didn't care about tenant rights, and woe to the tenant who doesn't know their rights.  


Knowledge is power whoever you are.


As a single woman living alone, I had to deal with impromptu, unannounced drop-ins by leery supers and landlords, coming unannounced, wanting to see if I was home and "take a look around".  This is not an emergency situation, no one's pipe broke, I called no one.  I don't throw parties or have people over every day and night.  I live quietly and like my house to stay that way. Pay the rent every month, no problem.  Yet when a stove needed fixing or the neighbor upstairs flooded their bathroom again to the point the ceiling caved into my bathtub, landlord was mysteriously slow in getting things fixed.  Because when it comes to a bill, no matter HOW it's caused, the landlord doesn't want to pay it.  But then again, WHO wants to pay a bill?  Guess what, if I have to pay rent every month and go to work whether I'm feeling well or not, then landlord step up and fix things -- and properly.  Not put a band-aid on something to save yourself money and act surprised when it falls apart a week or month later.

Gretchen D

Our horrible situation be this:

We moved from a blue state to a red state, and our land lord knows it. 1st and worst mistake. 

The place we are renting is making me sick, it had obviously NEVER been maintained or cleaned since it was built. When we endlessly complained and talked shit about them in the community they immediately raised our rent 16%.

After months of research I discovered that our landlord is part of a vast right wing political machine that is funneling moneys from their unkept unmaintained properties (at least 1000) (college town) into said machine.

Anybody know anybody who would be willing to report this?

Can't be the only place this is happening.


Thank you for reading this




Tim H

@Gretchen D  You are the epitome of a liberal snowflake who wants things free.Be glad I'm not your landlord because in NYC there are other ways to get you out, you won't like them at all. Your "Right Wing" babble is utter nonsense although a court would probable favor you but that's OK, Like I said there are other ways to get you out. if you want to live free, go back to mommy and daddy's basement, otherwise PAY YOUR RENT.

Open E

@Tim H You've confused the term "free" with "accountable".

sun S

Homeowners are looking for ways to reduce your energy usage.  Dollar for dollar there is nothing more cost effective than installing window tint in your home to accomplish energy savings. Window film helps to reject heat allowing indoor temperatures to be more easily regulated. Put that extra money in your pocket!

Debbey A

Hi. I have a great question. The landlord is my uncle and my aunt's long time friend. Well my landlord borrowed my boyfriend money. And the landlord and my boyfriend work with each other. The landlord has been taking my boyfriend paychecks for the last 6 years and doing his taxes. He makes my boyfriend cash them too.Of course he would give my boyfriend like a $20 here and there. The landlord won't tell my boyfriend how much he owes. And refused to give him his paychecks back. Then I stepped up and said something multiple times to give his money back. This last time I said something about it the landlord he said that if we get my boyfriend's money back then we have to get out!!! I'm so stressed about this. I would love to put our money together and split everything down the middle. It's like I have to support my boyfriend ,our pets and I on a small SSI benefits check.But the guy in the back owes the landlord $1200 and he doesn't take his cheek he only pays $50 extra a month..Please Help any information can help. Thank you for your time.

Angela C

Yes, rent can be negotiable. If tenants find the apartment that they really like, but the price is to high, they can always ask to lower rent. I thought everybody know that. There is even rental platform - Rentberry that allows to negotiate the rent through Web, without meeting a landlord. Of course, landlord is  likely to lower rent if a tenants credit score is high, their background check is fine and the references form previous landlords are good.


Eric A

If a landlord and tenant are in court, 99% of the time the tenant should be guilty. Why? What landlord in their right mind would be in court if the tenant paid their rent on time, were respectful to the other tenants, and/or were not destroying their apartment?


When a good tenant has a problem, the vast majority of landlords fix the problem ASAP. The last thing they want is their good tenant to leave, only to be replaced by a horrible tenant.


In two-family houses, there are tenants who are "prisoners." What does that mean? The landlord loves them and hasn't raised the rent in years. The tenants won't leave because they have a great deal. Yes, whoever wrote this article, not all tenants and landlords are at war.


If you own a two-family house and need a tenant, make sure you get a credit check. Then demand a minimum of 12 cancelled checks for their rent payments at their current apartment. Get references. Because if you don't, you could get stuck with no rental payments for 6 to 9 months. The judges are not judges. They are tenant advocates.


This article is total BS.



Natya P

NYC tenant rights are barbaric and biased. The huge point that no one ever mentions is that landlords have huge expenses to maintain the property  and it's not always a lot of money that goes to their pockets. Just like  most of landlords are not vultures, they are in fact hard working people, there are  tenants are parasites.

Tony T

One thing that people don't talk about are the SLUM TENANTS and the court system that protects them creating a de facto welfare system on the backs of landlords and only landlords. 


Let's talk about the welfare system first.. think about it. If someone needs help with rent, they can apply for rent assistance from the city. But, many don't bother to do that so the it ends up in court. The judge can and WILL allow a tenant to spend MONTHS in an apartment without paying any rent whatsoever. It's even worse if tenants have small children or elderly. The judge will not boot them. This happened to me in 2014. I had a tenant bait and switch. His aunt was a nice church going lady. I rented the apartment to her. Next thing I know, there's some scrawny dopefiend there with his scrawny dopefiend wife and kid. It took NINE months to remove these dopefiends from the apartment and not a dime of rent was paid. Why? Because judges use these opportunities to make landlords eat the costs when the city should at least be offering some assistance. Instead of that, they end up in a shelter costing the city over $1000 a day and my taxes are still due. More about the dopefiend after the next paragraph...


Let's talk about these SLUM TENANTS. Before I took over the property, my father had a nasty woman for a tenant who would put holes in the wall to avoid paying rent. When we go to court, the judge doesn't even ask questions of the tenant. It was literally an automatic free month and my father had to fix the hole. He fixes the hole, pictures and receipts. She reopened the hole and said my father never fixed. This was going on for THREE years.. no rent being paid. Never any other problems, just this hole in the wall was enough for this a--hole judge to give this lowlife free rent for THREE YEARS.

Back to the dopefiend.. another slum tenant, of course.. I spent $40,000 renovating that apartment.. by the time they were gone, it looked like the city dump and smelled like it. Kitchen was nasty. Bathroom was horrid. Bedroom and living room looked like a homeless camp. I eventually ended up beating the crap out of him and every punch, kick, and elbow I threw felt so good. I ended up putting him in the hospital. Sometimes I wonder if I would ever regret beating the brakes off that payaso.. I don't. It felt good because it was a righteous beat down and well deserved. That's what some of these people deserve. And, I still have no criminal record. Why? He attacked me.. so say the witnesses LOL

I have another slum tenant story for you. Guy, already stopped paying his rent couldnt pay his ConEd so the lights got cut off. This sumb-tch decided to start a fire in the middle of the living room so he could see. Who gets to pay for that damage.. I DO I DO.. does the city help? NOPE.. but they want their taxes, right?


But, one thing I know is that landlords like me have already stopped putting up with being welfare resources for the City's trash. If a judge doesn't have the sense to do their jobs in court, there are other ways to remove people from the building. I have so many stories, some my own and many from other owners. Be very careful who you SLUM TENANTS try to jerk around. The judge can give you a month but the judge can't put reset your bones and put your teeth back in your mouth. 

Lastly, your landlord can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I know tenants that my father still consider friends some 20 and 30 years later. I remember Linda who used to take me to Little Italy during the events. And, Hezzy who taught me how to use computers. I lost my virginity to the daughter of one of my father's tenants. BBQs in the back. Riding bikes with the kids.GOOD TIMES.

But, if you have problems, no matter who's at fault, don't play the righteous role. Just find a better apartment. Why stay some place where you don't want to be and you aren't wanted?? The law can only help you but so far. Then, it gets personal because now you're taking food out of someone else's mouth. Think about it, before it gets personal. You will lose. Tenants may win a little but YOU ALL end up leaving anyway. Leave healthy. 

Natya P

@Tony T Thank you Tony,  I am with you. NYC tenant rights are barbaric and biased. The huge point that no one ever mentions is that landlords have huge expenses to maintain the property  and it's not always a lot of money that goes to their pockets. Just like  most of landlords are not vultures, they are in fact hard working people, there are  that tenants are parasites. I think we need landlord union in nyc.  

Helen M

@Tony T not every body on assistance is trash or low lifes you are listening to , too much of Mike Savage the savage nation

Helen M

@Tony T I'm here since 1987 nope no problems at all repairs are done quick, and rents paid on time and I have the nicest apt in the bldg. it faces the end of the bldg. nice and quiet too.

Charles F

This was a poorly written article with a very cynical angle. How about we don't perpetuate the idea that landlords and tenants must always be adversaries?


Embarrassed to have fallen for this click bait.. oh well! 3 min I'll never get back.

Natya P

sorry, I misread your comment.

Josephine F

Oh please give me a break, I've had a tenant that hasn't paid rent for a year and spent thousands of dollars to get him out while the douche owns a buisness, and has lived rent free while I continue to pay out of pocket, the liberal laws of NY are all for tenants but I still have to pay my property taxes while asshole doesn't pay rent, enough is enough I can't wait til karma bites my tenant in the ass, cause if he's not out by tomorrow the Marshall will be there finally after a freaking year, and who's going to pay me all the rent loss, ummm not the government or this deadbeat. God bless America!

Warren B

don't get on that list.. the bad tenant one.. you'll never get off and will never get another place in the city...- It's really the end if you are blacklisted for being a bad tenant!

Aida

"... (a.k.a. that dude who receives the bulk earnings of your hard-earned paycheck every month)." That dude could be a dudette as well and they too, are struggling to make ends meet. Not every landlord is a real estate mogul. Most of them are the REAL providers of affordable housing in NY and akin to mom-and-pop shops. They are running a business and trying to stay afloat while the administration consistently passes legislation making it harder to do so. Last June, the Rent Guidelines Board passed a ZERO percent increase on rent stabilized leases. Zero. Landlords have to pay taxes, maintain their buildings, do repairs, keep in line with filing fees, deadlines and codes. Where are they supposed to get the needed revenue for this? From their investment, their building....rents. With zero percent increases, these costs have to come from somewhere. While so many free market tenants were picketing and protesting with rent-stabilized tenants for a rent freeze, the former didn't realize THEY would be paying for it because again, money doesn't grow on trees, especially not for landlords. It has to come from somewhere. 

"...and your landlord is, well, a d!@#" You have any idea how many tenants can be referred to in that derogatory manner for wreaking havoc on apartments, not paying rent, disturbing neighbors, etc.? That apartment belongs to the landlord. It's the landlord's property, the landlord's business yet the government strictly regulates how they operate it. If a tenant is the derogatory term you mentioned, (s)he can wend their way through housing court with barely a slap on the wrist yet the landlord gets penalized by having to pay legal fees, by not getting their rightful revenue, etc. Of course there are landlords that are not prime examples of humanity at its best. However, for every landlord that falls under that category, there is an exponential number of tenants that do too.

Landlords get a very bad rap in the media. How about taking a more in-depth, researched look that could elevate journalism by listing how landlords get the short end of the stick when running their business, their building, which is THEIR bread and butter? How about a list of rights landlords have? It'd be a lot smaller than the one in your article! How about a list of ways landlords get treated unfairly and have their hands tied when it comes to running their business? I bet you that list would be WAY longer than 1-10!

Justin V

@Aida  Running a business ain't cheap. Neither is owning a rental property. There are costs hidden everywhere. Unfortunately that's the name of the game. If you don't like the rules petition to change them. If you can't change them either A: Fold up your business of owning and renting property or B: Continue operating and suck it up and work with the regulations. There are countless industries that have massive regulations placed upon them that cut into their bottom line: Airlines, Food Producers, Restauranteurs, Shipping Companies, Insurance companies, Information firms, the list goes on and on.


You're not the only industry (Rental property owners) that are harmed by regulation. Unfortunately, it's the one or two landlords that give all landlords a bad rep (just like with oil companies; just because one runs a ship aground (Exxon) or has a massive oil spill in the gulf (BP), mean that all oil companies are going to be massive polluters, yet that image hasn't changed for other companies such as Chevron, Hess or Vitol). By holding other landlords accountable and by being as transparent as possible with your tenants, it is in my opinion that a good/healthy and understanding business relationship between the two can be maintained.

Elizabeth H

Some landlords deserve the bad name I had a landlord that was renting a condemned house to us and we didn't even know it she was hiding mold behind cheap paint jobs and quick fixes and a huge leak from the water heater yea they're expensive but the water heater was so bad that it literally had no bottom at all we had to throw out 3/4 of our belongings because they were destroyed with water and mold the mold made us all sick all the time the sink was barely glued to the wall and falling off the glue was the only thing holding it up we were told she'd fix it when we moved in never did we would get complaints from her about having too many toys in the yard the only thing in the yard would be a couple of bikes maybe a ball or 2 everything we complained about the mold coming back through the paint and all over the walls and windows she'd tell us to just use bleach or paint over it, we did many many times the house was sold to some guy after we moved out cause she couldn't get anyone to rent it and he tore the place apart found mold literally everywhere inside the walls in the floors in the cupboards you name it he tore it up and it was covered in mold

Warren B

@Elizabeth H gotta love that black mold.. insidious stuff.  introduce it to your landlord's home.. and send some bed-bugs too!

Helen M

@Warren B @Elizabeth H ha , ha ,ha you may give some folks ideas lol, me no I get along with my land lord really cool, rents on time , you are funny as hell thanks for the good laugh

Kate K

There are plenty of both tenants and landlords taking advantage of the system. But, where living conditions are concerned, none of them should be excused.

After over two years in Brooklyn housing court, I feel that the system itself is very flawed. The laws aren't really on anyone's side, except for the people who know how work the system.

The reason why journalists write about tenants rights is because most tenants a) don't know what their rights are, and b) have no clue where to find that information. When someone becomes a landlord, they generally know their basic rights, and have resources if they don't.

There are many good landlords (I hope to meet one someday lol), and many tenants who are just as bad as the worst landlords. Generalization, or a "tit for tat" mentality doesn't help anyone, though. Everyone gets screwed over at work. If one doesn't like being a landlord, then maybe it's time for a career change.