Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Miscellaneous Frequently Asked Questions

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The new owner says I can't keep my dog - What are the rules?

The NY State Attorney General's Tenant's Rights Guide discusses whether you may have a pet.

You can also learn about the rules and regulations of keeping pets in New York City apartments from these guides to pets.

Is the "fee" I paid to someone representing the owner to rent my apartment legal?

If the fee was not paid to a legitimate real estate broker to find you an apartment, but instead was paid to someone in a "rental office," this is probably "key money" and therefore illegal. If you have a stabilized apartment, you can file a complaint with Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).

More information on real estate brokers is available in the NY State Attorney General's Tenant's Rights Guide.

Can the landlord charge me a late fee?

According to HCR, late fees are allowable only where a clause in the vacancy lease allows for them to be charged by a certain specific date and the late fees are no more than 5% of the monthly rent currently being charged and collected. Late fees that are new or on different terms than that specified in the initial vacancy lease cannot be included in subsequent renewal leases. More details about late, legal and other types of fees can be found in HCR Fact Sheet #44 on Fees.

I was asked for "key money" to rent an apartment - How can I fight the request but still get the unit?

This is a difficult question. You may want to go forward with the "arrangement" and then file an overcharge complaint - seeking treble damages for an unlawful overcharge. You can file complaints with contact Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state agency which administers the rent laws.

The NY State Attorney General's Tenant's Rights Guide also discusses "key money."

My landlord has served eviction papers. How long will it take to get evicted, and should I show up in Housing Court?

First, the landlord legally should serve you with written termination of your tenancy, giving 30 days' notice. The notice must state that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to eviction proceedings. Subsequently, if you receive eviction papers from court and you do not appear in court, it is possible that the judge may simply order your eviction and issue a warrant of eviction, in which case you would have to be out in as little as six days. We cannot say for certain how long it would take to evict you because each case is different. In some cases, the violation complained of may be "cured" to end the threat of eviction. In other situations, the tenant may have valid procedural or substantive defenses to eviction. Sometimes, even when judgment is issued against the tenant, if hardship is shown, an eviction may be "stayed" for up to six months by the judge.

You are strongly advised to consult an attorney to assess your individual situation. If you cannot afford an attorney and do not qualify for Legal Aid or Legal Services, please visit our Legal Assistance page. Information and assistance may also available from the NYC Dept of Homeless Services. In addition, you may want to call one of the New York City Tenant organizations such as Tenants and Neighbors 212-608-4320 or Met Council 212-979-6238 for advice or free legal help.

Information about eviction and the role of city marshals may be found on the NYC Dept of Investigation Marshal Evictions Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

Can a landlord represent oneself in Housing Court?

The answer is yes, but there may be risks involved.

Landlord/tenant laws in New York are among the most complex in the nation. We highly recommend that you contact the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) at 212-214-9200 or the Small Property Owners of New York (SPONY) at 212-410-4600 for advice on how to proceed. While you may have grounds to evict a tenant, you may be unaware of the various notice and service requirements which are needed to secure an eviction. Some owners who proceed without a lawyer find themselves hiring a lawyer after a few failed attempts.

How do I obtain a lawyer?

Please visit our Legal Assistance page for available resources.

For advice without obtaining a lawyer, you may try calling groups such as the Met Council at 212-979-6238 or the NYS Tenants and Neighbors Coalition at 212-608-4320.

Do I have to pay for the fire gate in my new apartment?

There are two issues here: First, is the fire escape gate legal? In order to be a legal gate, it should have a handle on the inside of your apartment allowing you to easily open it in the event of a fire. It should not have a key lock - only a latch lock. Unlawful gates may be an extreme hazard if you cannot locate the key during a fire. If it is not an approved fire gate, you or the landlord should remove it.

On the other hand, a lawful gate may enhance security. If removal of the gate creates a clear danger to your security (for example, if other tenants have had break-ins from the fire escape), removal of the gate may expose the landlord to negligence claims and violate your warranty of habitability.

While there is generally no obligation in the law that a landlord install a fire gate, you are entitled to be reasonably secure from crime. Moreover, if the gate was in place when you signed your lease, it is part of the apartment you rented. If the landlord now attempts to make you pay for it, this would probably constitute an unlawful overcharge.

Where can I find demographic data on NYC tenants?

Since 1962, in order to fulfill its responsibilities under various rent control and rent stabilization laws, New York City has regularly retained the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct a comprehensive triennial survey of the New York City housing market. The resulting NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey (HVS) is an invaluable source of information about the state of the City's housing stock, residential population, and other housing-related issues and trends. Findings from the 2014 HVS, and earlier surveys, are available on our HVS Research page.

Can you tell me about Article 78 proceedings?

Article 78 is under Civil Practice Law and Rules, Sections 7801-7806 entitled "Proceedings Against a Body or Officer." An Article 78 proceeding involves a legal challenge before the New York State Supreme Court designed to review the final decision of an administrative agency.

The following is an example of the implementation of Article 78: A tenant files an overcharge complaint with the HCR. The HCR finds for the tenant and the landlord is ordered to pay damages. The landlord then files a Petition for Administrative Review (PAR) with the HCR and the original overcharge decision is overruled by the HCR Commissioner. At this point the tenant can use Article 78 to challenge the reversal of the overcharge decision. Parties involved in disputes before the HCR will receive notice of their right to file an Article 78 proceeding following a final decision by the agency. Such challenges must occur within a short time frame provided by the law - in the case of challenges to HCR decisions, litigants have only 60 days to file. For more information, contact Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).

Are there guidelines for parking spaces in rent stabilized buildings?

A parking space in the garage of a rent-stabilized building is an "ancillary service" that may be provided pursuant to the lease for the apartment or pursuant to a separate rental agreement.

Whether the garage rent is subject to stabilization is typically influenced by three factors: whether there is a separate charge for the apartment and for the space; whether the building owner was providing the space to the tenant when the building became subject to regulation; and whether the building and garage are owned and operated, directly or indirectly, by the same person or company.

On the other hand, he said, if there were initially separate leases for the space and for the apartment, and the building and garage are or were owned or operated by different companies — whether at the time the building became subject to regulation or afterward — then the parking space would probably not be subject to rent stabilization.

For more information, contact Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).

How can I find out if the building where I live is a legal structure for residential use and whether it is rent stabilized?

To determine if your building is classified as a residential building, contact the City's Citizen Service Center by dialing 311 and ask for information regarding Certificate of Occupancy, or visit NYC Dept. of Buildings and look the building up. If your building does not have a Certificate of Occupancy, it may not be a legal residence.

If the building is residential but not stabilized, there are no limits on the amount of rent that can be charged. Contact Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) to determine if your apartment is stabilized.

If the certificate of occupancy does not permit residential use, the owner may not be able to sue you for rent although the owner may seek to remove you from the space. For more information on tenant rights, visit NY State Attorney General's Tenant's Rights Guide.

In addition, you may want to call one of the New York City Tenant organizations such as Tenants and Neighbors 212-608-4320 or Met Council 212-979-6238 for advice.

What is the Apartment Sharing Law mentioned in my lease?

The apartment sharing law is a provision of the Real Property Law (RPL). The RPL is the basic, substantive statute governing landlord-tenant relations in New York City. The apartment sharing provision (Real Property Law §§235-f) generally covers rights (and limits) to additional occupants in rental households. It is also known as the Roommate Law.

Here is a summary of the provision: Landlords may limit the total number of people living in an apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards. However, it is unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and immediate family.

When the lease names only one tenant, that tenant may share the apartment with immediate family, one additional occupant and the occupant's dependent children, provided that the tenant or the tenant's spouse occupies the premises as his/her primary residence.

When the lease names more than one tenant, these tenants may share their apartment with immediate family, and if one of the tenants named in the lease moves out, that tenant may be replaced with another occupant and the dependent children of the occupant. At least one of the tenants named in the lease or that tenant's spouse must occupy the shared apartment as his or her primary residence. Tenants must inform their landlords of the name of any occupant within 30 days after the occupant has moved into the apartment or within 30 days of landlord's request for this information. If the tenant named in the lease moves out, the remaining occupant has no independent right to continue in occupancy.

More information on roommates is available in our Apartment Hunting guide and our Roommates Frequently Asked Questions.

What is an apartment referral service?

Apartment referral services are essentially organizations that provide listings for apartments for a fee. They are generally not licensed real estate brokers and do not provide the same service that brokers do.

You can find a list of on-line referral services in our Apartment Hunting guide.

Also see the NY State Attorney General's Tenant's Rights Guide.

Do I have to fill out a personal information form sent recently by my landlord?

Generally, the only information that a landlord may demand while a tenant is in occupancy is the names, ages and relationships (whether family members, roommates, etc.) of all persons occupying the apartment. If you live in a rent regulated unit, contact Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state agency which administers the rent laws, to find out more.

If you obtain a new roommate, the landlord is entitled to the name of the roommate. If you seek to sublet, the landlord may make a variety of inquiries about the proposed subtenant and the reasons for the sublet.

If your apartment rents for over $2,700, the landlord may send an Income Certification Form for the purpose of petitioning for high-rent/high-income deregulation. If you fail to respond, the HCR will send a subsequent form, demanding an answer which, if not responded to in time, may result in deregulation and eventual eviction. Other than these circumstances, the landlord may not insist that you divulge private information. For more info, visit our Deregulation Frequently Asked Questions page.

Note, however, that this does not apply to applications for an apartment which you have not yet rented, or to renewals in unregulated apartments. Landlords may make a variety of inquiries to determine if you are a credit-worthy and desirable tenant prior to renting you an apartment.