In New York City, tenants have many rights relating to the safety and quality of their housing. Tenants should expect to live in safe, well-maintained buildings that are free from vermin, leaks, and hazardous conditions. Laws protect tenants from harassment and discrimination. Tenants have responsibilities to their building owners and other tenants - including not damaging the building, and responding to annual owner inquiries related to window guards, lead-based paint, and to maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Changes to New York State rent laws, recently passed by lawmakers in Albany, make it harder for landlords to evict any tenant. In addition, the new rent laws strengthened protections for New Yorkers living in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments. These laws are enforced by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). DHCR is the State's affordable housing agency, with a mission to build, preserve, and protect affordable housing and increase home ownership throughout New York State.
As of June 14, 2019, there are new laws protecting tenants in New York State. The new rent laws are permanent unless the legislature amends, repeals, or terminates them. Learn more about the new tenant protection laws from the NYC Mayor's Office to Protect Tenants.
The ABCs of Housing is HPD's guide to housing rules and regulations for owners and tenants.
Owners and tenants have legal responsibilities to each other. HPD is one of many city and state agencies that enforce those responsibilities. This booklet is designed to help owners and tenants gain an understanding of the rules and regulations affecting housing, and to provide information about how to receive assistance.
Inside the guide you will find information about owners' and tenants' rights and responsibilities, staying in your apartment safely, resources for new affordable housing or rental assistance, and useful contact information for other housing related issues.
The ABCs of Housing is also available in the following languages:
Click a topic, or press the enter key on a topic, to reveal its answer.
What are my responsibilities as a tenant?
Tenants must comply with the provisions of the law and are responsible for violations caused by willful acts, gross negligence, and abuse. These as well as unreasonable refusal to allow access to the apartment by the owner or his or her agent or employee for the purpose of making repairs or improvements required by the Housing Maintenance Code and Multiple Dwelling Law may constitute grounds for eviction proceedings. Tenants are also responsible to respond to owners on legally required notices, including the notice regarding lead-based paint and window guards.
What are the responsibilities of my landlord?
Owners must ensure that buildings are safe, clean and well maintained, in both common areas and in individual apartments. Among other responsibilities, owners must provide and maintain security measures, heat, hot and cold water, and good lighting. Owners must register the property annually with HPD, if the building is rent-stabilized the owner must registered rents annually with the New York State Homes and Community Renewal and the owner must be in compliance with the New York City Housing Maintenance Code and New York State Multiple Dwelling Law.
My landlord refuses to make repairs to my apartment. What can I do?
If you are a tenant in a privately-owned building, there are several things you can do to get your landlord to make repairs; however, you may want to take the following steps in order to establish a record:
Tenants living in an HPD-owned building who have complaints about the maintenance of their apartment should call 212-491-4229 or 311 for assistance.
Tenants with maintenance complaints about apartments in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings should call the NYCHA Customer Contact Center at 718-707-7771.
I have no heat or hot water in my apartment. What can I do?
Tenants without heat or hot water should file a complaint by calling 311 (TTY 212-504-4115) or online at nyc.gov/311. Heat is required between October 1st and May 31st, a period designated as "Heat Season." Building owners are required to provide tenants with heat during these months under the following conditions:
These is peeling paint in my apartment and I have a child under 6. How can I find out if there is lead-based paint and what is my landlord supposed to do?
Tenants should report peeling paint in an apartment to the landlord. If the landlord does not fix peeling paint or if work is being done in an unsafe manner (for example, creating dust that is not being contained), tenants should call 311. Tenants may also call 311 to learn how to prevent lead poisoning, find out where to get their children tested, find information about pregnancy and lead, or request brochures and materials on lead poisoning prevention.
Can I request window guards from my landlord?
If tenants or occupants want window guards for any reason, even if there are no resident children 10 years of age or younger, the tenant can request the window guards in writing and the landlord must install them. For example, occupants who have visiting grandchildren, parents who share custody and occupants who provide child care may wish to request window guards. Tenants should call 311 if required or requested window guards have not been installed, if they appear to be insecure or improperly installed, or if there is more than four and a half inches of open unguarded space in the window opening.
Am I entitled to have my apartment painted?
Yes, the landlord must paint occupied apartments in multiple dwellings (buildings with three or more apartments) every three years. (NYC Administrative Code §27-2013). Tenant occupied apartments in private dwellings are also required to be painted as necessary.
What are the rules about living in basements and cellars?
Basements and cellars are very different spaces and thus have different legal uses. A basement is a story of a building partly below curb level but with at least one-half of its height above the curb level. A cellar is an enclosed space having more than one-half of its height below curb level. Basements and cellars of multiple dwellings may not be occupied unless the conditions meet the minimum requirements for light, air, sanitation, and egress, and have been approved by the City’s Department of Buildings. Cellars in one and two-family homes can NEVER be lawfully rented or occupied for residential use. Basements in one-and two-family homes can NEVER be lawfully rented or occupied for residential use unless the conditions have received approval by the Department of Buildings. Owners with illegally converted basements and cellars may face civil and criminal penalties. Occupants of illegal basement and cellar apartments face potential dangers such as carbon monoxide poisoning, inadequate light and ventilation, and inadequate egress in the event of a fire. Occupants of illegal basement and cellar apartments may be ordered by the City to vacate or leave any such apartment. Complaints regarding illegal cellars or basements should be directed to 311, which will forward the complaint to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB). For more information, please refer to DOB’s website at nyc.gov/buildings.
Can my landlord enter my apartment at any time?
Generally no. However, a landlord may enter a tenant's apartment in some situations. Your landlord can enter your apartment at any time and without notice in an emergency, and at a reasonable time after providing appropriate notice if the entry is either:
My landlord has changed the locks on my apartment. Is the landlord allowed to change my locks?
Changing the locks on a resident's apartment without giving the resident a key is a violation of the Unlawful Eviction Law (NYC Administrative Code §26-521) if the landlord does not have a warrant of eviction or if the resident is:
If you believe or suspect that you will be locked out of your apartment, you should be prepared with the necessary documentation to establish that you are the lawful occupant of the apartment. Therefore, you may want to leave copies of whatever papers you have which establish your occupancy with a friend or relative who does not live in the apartment. You also should take the documents with you whenever you leave your apartment so that you can establish to the Police Department and/or the Court that you are the lawful occupant.
Documents that will be useful include, but are not limited to:
My Landlord raised my rent. I think it is too high. What can I do?
If your apartment is subject to rent control or rent stabilization, DHCR and the Rent Guidelines Board determine the amount that your landlord may increase your rent. If you don't know the status of your apartment, you can call DHCR at 718-739-6400 or access your apartment's rental history. DHCR can also answer any questions about whether the amount of the increase is too high.
If your apartment is not regulated, DHCR does not regulate your rent. If you have a lease, the legal rent is what it states in the lease and can be raised only as permitted by the lease or at the expiration of the lease. If you do not have a lease, the landlord may raise your rent to whatever amount the landlord wishes, as long as the landlord tells you a month before the rent increase. If you do not pay the increase, the landlord may evict you if you received legally adequate notice of the increase.
If you live in public or subsidized housing, increases in the amount of rent you pay are subject to the regulations for that housing and are usually related to your family's income.
Am I supposed to get my security deposit back?
Yes, at the end of your tenancy, you are entitled to get your security deposit back with interest. Before returning your deposit the landlord may check your apartment to determine if you caused any damage. If you did not cause damage to the apartment, except for normal wear, the landlord should return the full amount of your deposit with interest. If you did cause damage, the landlord must provide you with an itemized statement indicating the basis for any amount retianed and the balance of the remaining deposit within fourteen days of vacating the apartment. If the landlord fails to do so they forfeit any right to the deposit. The landlord must also notify you in writing of your right to request an inspection of the apartment before vacating and your right to be present at the inspection. After the inspection an itemized statment specifying repairs and cleaning that are proposed and the basis for the duduction in the security deposit must be given to you. You can then cure any condition before the end of your tenancy.
What should I do if my building owner is harassing me?
Building owners are prohibited by law from harassing tenants to force them out of their apartments. Examples of harassment include verbal or physical abuse, consistent withholding of services, or persistent physical or mental intimidation.
Any tenants (rent regulated or not rent regulated) who live in buildings with three or more units who believe they are being harassed may have grounds to initiate legal action in Housing Court against their building owners. Tenants may want to consult with and secure the services of an attorney before initiating any lawsuit. Tenants who cannot afford legal representation may be eligible for free or inexpensive legal assistance. Visit Fair Housing NYC for more information.
Can a building owner discriminate against me?
By law, owners may not deny prospective tenants housing because of race, color, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, immigrant status, source of income, or legal occupation. Furthermore, tenants may not be denied housing because children may or will be residing with them. Visit Fair Housing NYC for more information.
Can I have pets in my apartment?
Unless the pet can be considered a "service animal" used by blind, deaf or disabled people, whether pets are permitted is at the discretion of the building owner and is usually stipulated in the lease. If a tenant keeps a pet in the apartment without the building owner's permission, it may be considered a serious violation of the lease and may be a basis for terminating tenancy. In addition, many animals cannot be kept legally as pets in the City of New York. For more information on pet regulations, call 311.
Note: The content on this web site is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or opinion. The content of this web site may not reflect current legal developments. Since the law is constantly changing and since the law will vary based on different facts and circumstances, statements on this web site regarding the status of a given law or legal issue may not be current or applicable to your particular situation.