Explore the Rent Guidelines Board’s list of what every New Yorker needs to know about rental housing:
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Types of Housing
Rental housing in New York falls into three main categories: market-rate housing, rent regulated housing, and subsidized housing. Rents and lease renewals in market rate housing are essentially matters to be negotiated between the landlord and tenant. In rent regulated housing, rent adjustments and lease renewals are regulated by law. In subsidized housing, rents may be directly or indirectly supplemented by various government programs and terms of occupancy are regulated by law. View more detailed information about housing types.
If your apartment is rent stabilized, you have certain protections not guaranteed to other tenants, including:
To find out if your apartment is rent stabilized, look at your lease, or ask the landlord, broker or managing agent leasing the apartment. You may also consult our list of rent stabilized buildings and then, to verify, contact NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), the state agency which administers the rent laws. Note that many buildings on our list contain apartments that have been deregulated due to high-rent/high-income deregulation; high-rent vacancy deregulation; expiration of tax benefits; and co-op conversion. If the apartment is rent stabilized the landlord must attach a Rent Stabilization Lease Rider to your lease. The Rider outlines your rights and responsibilities under the rent stabilization laws and provides the previous rent for the apartment. For more information, see HCR Fact Sheet #2.
If your apartment has recently undergone High-Rent Vacancy Deregulation, it’s a good idea to review the rental history for the apartment. Under local law, your landlord has a duty to provide information about the last legal rent and where to file a complaint. If your landlord has not provided such information, you may contact the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) to obtain a printout of the rent history for your apartment. If it appears that the increase to over $2,700 ($2,733.75 as if Jan. 1, 2018; $2,774.76 as of Jan. 1, 2019) that you paid cannot be justified in terms of the prior rent, vacancy allowance and individual apartment improvements, you may file a rent overcharge complaint with the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR). Note, however, that if you are not the first market-rate tenant, and the increase you are concerned about occurred more than four years ago, your complaint may be time-barred by a four-year statute of limitations.
Finding an affordable apartment is perhaps the most challenging thing about living in New York. For housing that is based on a variety of income levels (depending on the development), go to Housing Types: Affordable Housing. To find privately owned housing (including rent stabilized apartments), see Finding an Apartment.
What kind of fees are legal?
Generally, the fees you may be asked to pay for securing an apartment are legal. However, be careful not to be taken in by the occasional unscrupulous operator:
Why is a Lease Important?
Landlord and tenant relations are governed by statutes, administrative regulations, court decisions and the terms of individual leases. A lease is a contract which supplements or expands upon the rights and obligations prescribed by law.
A lease is particularly important for unregulated tenants. Tenants who are not protected by rent control or rent stabilization are considered month-to-month tenants unless they have a lease which specifies a longer term. Without a lease, unregulated tenancies may be terminated with as little as 30 days notice at the owner’s sole discretion. Additionally, leases for unregulated tenants protect against unexpected rent increases during the term of the lease. Unregulated leases can be almost any length, but are typically one or two years.
Rent regulated tenants have tenure rights and cannot be evicted except for cause. Nonetheless, owners of rent stabilized buildings almost universally demand new tenants sign standard leases. Rent stabilized tenants have a right to choose one- or two-year leases.
It is important to note that many leases contain terms and conditions which have been displaced by statutes. Such matters as subletting, pets, evictions and services are heavily regulated by law. This is true whether the apartment is rent regulated or unregulated. Because of changes in the law, most leases contain one or more clauses that are no longer enforceable. It is therefore important to consult with a lawyer even if a lease provision appears clear on its face.
Are Roommates a Risk?
In an expensive housing market, one way to make ends meet is to share an apartment with roommate(s). While this can be an excellent way to find (and keep) affordable housing, here are some things you should know:
What precautions can you take?
How Do I Sublet?
Under New York State law, a landlord cannot unreasonably refuse a request to sublet your apartment (if you have a lease and reside in a building with four or more units). This protection applies to both rent regulated and unregulated apartments.
If the apartment is rent stabilized, you can sublet for up to two years in any four-year period. If the apartment is not stabilized the sublet cannot extend beyond your current lease.
Subletting an apartment can be a very difficult and complex process. Do not undertake it lightly. You must be careful to:
Failure to be careful about choosing a subtenant and seeking your landlord’s permission can lead to financial loss and eviction from the apartment.
For more information, see our Subletting FAQ.
How do I resolve maintenance issues in my apartment?
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.
Consequently, all tenants, regardless of rent regulation status, are eligible to seek repairs and rent abatements for violations of this Warranty of Habitability. Note, however, that your landlord may not be responsible for the COST of repairs if the defects were due to your negligence or the negligence or abuse of someone else in your household. Regardless of whether the landlord or the tenant is ultimately liable for the cost of a repair or maintenance defect, the owner is obligated to keep the premises in good repair. For a comprehensive list of how to get your apartment repaired, see our Repairs & Maintenance FAQ.
What should I know about my security deposit?
Virtually all leases require tenants to give their landlords a security deposit. The security deposit is usually one month’s rent, and cannot be more than one month’s rent in rent stabilized housing units.
The landlord must return your security deposit, less any lawful deduction, at the end of the lease or within a reasonable time thereafter. A landlord may use the security deposit: (a) as reimbursement for the reasonable cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear, if the apartment is damaged; or (b) as reimbursement for any unpaid rent.
Landlords, regardless of the number of units in the building, must treat the deposits as trust funds belonging to their tenants and they may not CO-mingle deposits with their own money. Landlords of buildings with six or more apartments must put all security deposits in New York bank accounts earning interest at the prevailing rate. You must be informed in writing of the bank’s name and address and the amount of the deposit.
Landlords are entitled to annual administrative expenses equal to 1% of your security deposit (not the interest earned). If there is any remaining interest earned on the deposit, it belongs to you. However, with interest rates averaging below 1% in recent years, tenants may not be eligible to receive any interest at all. (You must be given the option of having this interest paid out annually, applied to rent, or paid at the end of the lease term. If the building has fewer than six apartments, a landlord who voluntarily places the security deposits in an interest bearing account must also follow these rules.
For more information about security deposits, see HCR’s Fact Sheet #9 (for rent stabilized units), or read our Security Deposits FAQ and the Attorney General’s “Tenant’s Rights Guide”. If you believe your security deposit has not been rightfully returned to you, see Legal Assistance.
What are my responsibilities as a tenant and how can I better work with my landlord?
For tips on having a better relationship with your landlord, please see the Legal Assistance section of our website, which offers advice for knowing the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord, communicating more effectively, and using a mediation service before resorting to legal filings.