New York tenants are entitled to basic rights surrounding the quality of their living conditions, as laid out in the Warranty of Habitability. This warranty guarantees all tenants to a residence that is livable, safe and sanitary. This right applies to all rental leases, regardless of whether they are written or oral. In addition, if your landlord includes a stipulation in their lease that contradicts this policy, that condition is invalid under the law.
There are many infractions that constitute a breach of this warranty. For example, it is illegal for a landlord to fail to:
- Provide working plumbing
- Provide regular heat and hot water
- Provide extermination services in the event of infestation
- Provide smoke detectors
- Make repairs to any part of the property, which jeopardizes tenant safety
Recourse for tenants
If you are living in a rental property with uninhabitable conditions, there are a few options available to you:
- You can sue your landlord for reduction in rent.
- You can submit a rent reduction complaint to the New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal. Before filing such a complaint, you must first contact your landlord in writing about the problem. You are permitted to submit your complaint 10–50 days after that.
- You can refuse to pay rent. Note that with this option, you run this risk of your landlord suing you for non-payment. In response, you have the option of countersuing for breach of warranty.
No one deserves to live in conditions unfit for human habitation. Talking to an attorney experienced in landlord-tenant disputes can help you understand what you’re entitled to under the law.