Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Quality of Life

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I have bed bugs in my apartment. How do I get rid of them?

If you have a bed bug problem, first report it to your landlord. Detailed information on what to do about eliminating them and to file a complaint with the City can be found in NYC Dept of Health's Bedbug Basics. Bedbug Registry also has comprehensive information on bed bugs.

I have mice/roaches in my apartment. What should I do?

By law, your landlord must keep your apartment unit and building in safe and sanitary condition and conduct needed repairs in a timely manner. The City will issue violations to owners who do not properly maintain the property. You also have a responsibility to notify your landlord of conditions. You should document all contact with your landlord. In addition to filing a complaint with the City, you may seek assistance in Housing Court. Here are suggested steps:

  • Call the super or owner of the building. Let them know there is a problem in the building and it is not being addressed.
  • If the problem is not addressed promptly, let the owners know that you will file a Pest Control Complaint. Tell the owners you don't want to take these actions, but if they don't address the problem you have no choice.
  • If the owners do not respond, follow through on the above.
  • If the placement of violations fails to bring results you may bring what is known as an "HP" proceeding in housing court, to obtain an order for compliance. You may obtain information on these proceedings at the Civil Court of the City of New York. Or you may want to consult the Tenant's Guide to Housing Court on our Legal Assistance page. Also take a look at our Repairs & Maintenance Frequently Asked Questions page for additional suggestions.

Can my landlord demand I be present to let an exterminator in even if it means taking a day off from work?

So long as the landlord has provided reasonable notice and seeks access at reasonable times he or she probably could require you or someone you designate to be at the apartment to let the exterminator in. It is best to contact the landlord and try to arrange access at a mutually convenient time. If this fails, try and get someone you trust to allow the exterminator in and to monitor the work.

Is my landlord required to exterminate on a regular basis?

According to the City of New York's Housing Maintenance Code (HMC), eradication of rodents or other pests means elimination through the use of traps, poisons, fumigation or any other method of extermination. The HMC states that an owner is required to keep premises free of rodents, and when the premises are subject to infestation, shall apply "continuous eradication measures."

When the department charged with enforcement, in this case the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) determines that any premises are infested by rodents, it may order "such eradication measures as the department deems necessary." To file a complaint, contact HPD.

I am dreading the winter in my cold apartment - what can I do to get adequate heat and hot water?

By law, building owners must provide all tenants with the following levels of heat (during the heating season, October 1 through May 31):

Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., heat must register at least 68°F when the outside temperature falls below 55°F;

Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., heat must register at least 62°F.

In addition, hot water must be provided 365 days per year at a constant minimum temperature of 120°F.

More information can be found at Heat and Hot Water.

Tenants in New York City with heat and/or hot water problems may file a complaint by dialing 311 or file online.

In addition, rent stabilized and rent controlled tenants can file a complaint with the New York State Homes and Community Renewal if the landlord is violating the above rules. For more details, see HCR Fact Sheet #15: Heat and Hot Water.

If you find that the landlord is in fact meeting the heating standards but it still feels cold to you, you might talk with the landlord about repairing windows or other openings that are allowing drafts to enter the apartment. Sometimes some caulking, tape or insulation around windows and A/C units will provide tremendous heat saving benefits.

I didn't have heat or hot water for several days - do I have any recourse?

There are various ways to deal with this situation:

  • Contact the super and request immediate repairs. The Housing Maintenance Code requires that a number be posted for contacts for emergency repairs on a 24-hour basis. Write a letter to the management company and owner and send it certified mail. Document all instances of lack of heat. Have your neighbors do likewise.
  • Tenants in New York City can file a complaint by dialing 311 or file online.
  • Rent regulated tenants may file a reduction in services complaint with New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state agency which administers the rent regulation system. For more information, see HCR Fact Sheet #15: Heat and Hot Water.
  • If the problem simply won't go away, and the landlord is not responsive, file an "HP" action in Housing Court. For more information contact Civil Court of the City of New York. Also see the Tenant's Guide to Housing Court on our Legal Assistance page.
  • Although a somewhat riskier strategy, you may consider withholding rent and claim an abatement under your warranty of habitability. The landlord is likely to sue you for non-payment of rent and breach of the warranty of habitability can be raised by you as a counterclaim. This strategy is risky because, if you lose, you may have to promptly pay the back rent (or face eviction) and, depending upon the terms of your lease, you may have to pay the landlord's legal fees.

There's too much heat in my apartment - what can I do?

The first thing you should do is to write a letter to your landlord. Send it via certified mail. If the building is overly hot, it is the landlord's money going up the chimney, out the window, etc. The landlord may not even know that the building is too hot. If s/he does know perhaps s/he will hire someone to fix the problem and save himself some money.

If this doesn't work and you have steam heat, as many Manhattan buildings do, it may be possible to put in radiator valves with smaller holes, which let out less steam & heat. It is also possible to buy adjustable valves which limit the heat. Ask your super to buy and install these valves.

Sometimes just shutting off radiator valves will help. You should ask your super about this.

Of course, it is easy to say "open the windows" but this is not an appropriate long term solution and on cold days this could result in dramatic temperature fluctuations.

Can I get my apartment tested for lead paint?

If you have small children and believe that peeling paint or paint dust may contain lead (as it may if the apartment was built before the early 1960's), you can call the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development or the NYC Department of Health and ask them to send out an inspector. They will examine your apartment and may test for dangerous lead levels.

For more information on lead paint and its hazards, and what you can do to protect your family, see Lead Paint Resources. To report violations, contact the NYC Dept. of Health at Lead Poisoning Prevention.

Are NYC landlords required to provide smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors? How much can I be charged for them?

The NYC Housing Maintenance Code requires landlords to provide and install smoke detecting devices in each apartment unit. All smoke detectors must now use a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the alarm for a minimum of 10 years, and shall be of the type that emits an audible notification at the expiration of the useful life of the alarm. The owner may charge the tenant up to $25 per smoke detector (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).

Landlords are also required to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within each dwelling unit. The landlord may charge the tenant $25 per carbon monoxide alarm (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector) but only when the smoke alarm needs to be replaced, i.e. it is missing or inoperable. More details at NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD).

The water in my apartment seems contaminated - what can I do?

The NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offers a Water Lead Test Kit. Other issues related to water quality can be found at Water Quality.

My building looks like it's about to collapse - who can help?

You should evacuate the building and contact the NYC Dept. of Buildings immediately by dialing 311. If the Buildings Department needs to be notified the Complaint Bureau will advise you accordingly. If the building is structurally unsound, the City may place a vacate order resulting in a temporary or permanent relocation of the tenants. If your building is vacated, you should contact NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state agency which administers the rent laws, to ensure that you reserve your right to return once the building is repaired or to obtain a relocation stipend if one is available. This may involve payment of one dollar per month to preserve your tenancy.

I have a noisy neighbor living upstairs - What can I do?

Noise problems are nearly always very difficult to deal with. Tenants have different tolerances for noise and landlords generally want to avoid tenant-tenant disputes over noise. It is always best to try and work it out informally with the tenant first, if possible. See NYC's Noise Page.

Chronic disruptive noise may constitute a legal nuisance for which court proceedings are available. For this, we suggest work with others in your building and consider getting Legal Assistance.

You may want to consider mediation, where a neutral third party hears both sides of a disagreement and helps develop solutions that meet everybody's needs. The following Community Mediation Centers provide free mediation services:

Is my upstairs neighbor required to carpet his/her floor to reduce the noise from his/her foot-stomping?

There is no regulation governing carpeting. However, many leases include a clause requiring the tenant to cover a certain percentage (usually around 80%) of the floor space with a rug or carpet. You may want to read your lease for this provision. If it is contained in your lease, it is very likely that it is in the leases of other tenants in your building.

In addition, under a provision of state law called the "Warranty of Habitability," tenants are entitled to an apartment fit for human habitation without any conditions endangering or detrimental to their life, health, or safety. While there are no specific regulations concerning when noise can be made, leases sometimes contain clauses concerning this.

In any case, you may want to follow the steps listed in our Repairs & Maintenance Frequently Asked Questions page in dealing with issues with your landlord, who is ultimately responsible for your right to peacefully enjoy your apartment.

My view is being blocked by new construction - what can I do?

You may not be able to do much, but here are some things to consider:

The construction company should be adhering to their building permit. The permit specifies the hours that work can take place and other details. To find out more, contact the NYC Dept. of Buildings. If the company is not adhering to the terms of the building permit, you can file a complaint.

If you have a problem with the noise, see NYC's Noise Page.

In some instances, if a rent stabilized building suffers from neglect or services are removed (e.g., the tenant loses use of a balcony or window), the tenants in the building (or an individual tenant) can file a "reduction in services" complaint with NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state agency which administers the rent laws. If the HCR finds that a reduction in services has occurred, they can order appropriate rent reductions. It is unlikely that the loss of a view from the balcony will result in such an order, however, so long as light and air have not been entirely cut off. For information on filing a reduction in services complaint, see HCR Fact Sheet #14: Rent Reduction for Decreased Services.

Can my landlord relocate all the stabilized tenants to the upper floors of the building?

Generally, the answer is no. You are entitled to a renewal lease for your original apartment. There may be exceptions, however. First, tenants may move by voluntary mutual agreement with the landlord. Second, if the landlord seeks the lower floors for the personal use of his or her family, and the tenants being displaced are over 62 or disabled, the landlord may offer an apartment on the upper floors as alternatives (assuming it is an elevator building). Finally, if hazardous condition exists and the lower floors must be vacated by order of a City agency, the landlord may offer other apartments as temporary relocation. You should consider getting Legal Assistance to ensure you maintain rent stabilization status if you move to a different apartment. For more information, contact NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state agency which administers the rent laws.

Can a management company force me to have a visual inspection or to provide access for repairs in my apartment?

According to the City's multiple dwelling rules, it is unlawful for a tenant to refuse to permit an owner or the owner's agent to enter the apartment for the purpose of making repairs or to assess whether the apartment is in compliance with the law. Reasonable notice is required. At least 24 hours notice is required before an inspection and one week's notice is required to before repairs. Such notice must be in writing, stating the nature of the repairs or improvement to be made. Access may only be scheduled during business hours on weekdays. In case of emergencies such as cascading water leaks or gas leaks or collapsing ceilings, no prior written notice is required for access. Access may be further authorized under provisions of your lease.

We advise that you check your lease first. Usually such matters can be worked out at the mutual convenience of the parties.

We are without cooking gas due to a faulty burner - how can I file a complaint?

A rent stabilized tenant who experiences a decrease in service in an individual apartment should first contact the owner. If that does not resolve the problem, the tenant may file an "Application for a Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreases Service(s) – Individual Apartment" (HCR Form RA-81). For complaints involving a decrease in building-wide services, still uncorrected after a tenant contacted the owner, a tenant or tenant representative may file an "Application for a Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreased Building-Wide Service(s)" (DHCR Form RA-84). Both forms are available on the HCR website.

Alternately, you can file an individual apartment complaint of decreased services online.

For additional steps to take when facing maintenance problems, see our Repairs & Maintenance Frequently Asked Questions page

For additional information, see HCR Fact Sheet #14: Rent Reduction for Decreased Services.

If you need further assistance, contact NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR).

What can I do about mold?

Find out about what you can do about mold at NYC's Mold webpage.

Is there a legal amount of electrical input I am entitled to have in my apartment?

Your landlord is required to provide sufficient electricity for all items or services listed in your lease and to maintain a safe and habitable apartment. For example, if your lease states that the apartment is provided with an air conditioner, your landlord must provide enough power to run it.

If there is an exposed plate or wiring, constant blowing of fuses or evidence of electrical fires or a decrease in the amount of power provided to your apartment, you may wish to call HPD Code Enforcement for an inspection.

For more information or to request an inspection, visit NYC's Electrical Complaints or Power Outage page.

My landlord changed the wiring and now I have less wattage - what should I do?

This recent change by the landlord may constitute a "reduction in services." If the landlord refuses to negotiate and improve your access to electricity, you should contact NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state agency which administers the rent laws.

A rent stabilized tenant who experiences a decrease in service in an individual apartment should first contact the owner. If that does not resolve the problem, the tenant may file an "Application for a Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreases Service(s) – Individual Apartment" (HCR Form RA-81). For complaints involving a decrease in building-wide services, still uncorrected after a tenant contacted the owner, a tenant or tenant representative may file an "Application for a Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreased Building-Wide Service(s)" (DHCR Form RA-84). Both forms are available on the HCR website. Alternately, you can file an individual apartment complaint of decreased services online.

For more information, see HCR Fact Sheet #14: Rent Reduction for Decreased Services.

Does the loss of my terrace constitute a decrease in services?

It may depend upon whether the terrace is considered part of your housing accommodation. If it is physically configured to serve only your apartment or if it is provided for in your lease you may claim a service reduction. Other circumstances are less clear - such as shared terraces. A rent stabilized tenant can file an "Application for a Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreases Service(s) – Individual Apartment" (HCR Form RA-81) for decreased services in an individual apartment. The form is available on the HCR website . Alternately, you can file an individual apartment complaint of decreased services online. To obtain a rent reduction based on service reduction, a tenant must specifically request a rent reduction. HCR will send a copy of your complaint to the owner/co-op board who/which will be required to address the complaint.

For more information on how to proceed, see HCR Fact Sheet #14: Rent Reduction for Decreased Services.

Can my landlord rent rooms like hotel rooms or a bed & breakfast?

No. Operating a rent stabilized apartment like a hotel or bed and breakfast on a daily or weekly basis may be a violation of the rent laws, and probably violates several other laws. First, charging more rent than the amount prescribed by law is illegal. Second, occupants are entitled to one- or two-year leases and imposing leases for a shorter period is unlawful. Third, no owner may impose conditions such as forcing a prospective tenant to agree that the apartment will not be occupied as his or her primary residence, in connection with leasing space. Finally, building, health and zoning codes along with consumer protection regulations may restrict or regulate the conditions under which daily rentals and meals are provided. You may file a complaint and get more information online.

Note, however, that there is an entire class of stabilized dwellings that are located in hotels, single room occupancy buildings and lodging houses. Rents for these accommodations may be charged on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Nonetheless, tenants are afforded all of the protections of rent stabilization - and they may even demand a lease.

If you have any further questions, you may contact NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the agency which administers the rent regulation.