Recently, residents of a building in the Bronx went on a rent strike. Their landlord refused to fix rodent and cockroach infestations, peeling paint, leaking pipes, broken cabinets, refrigerators, outlets, and stoves.
They also filed a lawsuit to get the landlord to address the issues.
There are even worse stories out there. Some tenants in New York City are forced to go without a stove, cooking gas, or heat. Some struggle with mold or other health hazards.
The statistics on repairs in New York City are grim. 24% of New York buildings have rodent infestations. One in six apartments have leaks. 10% don’t have heat in the winter. 16% have elevator breakdowns. 65% to 85% of housing code violations in rent-stabilized buildings remain unresolved.
Some landlords don’t make repairs because they don’t have the money. Some are hoping to drive residents out so they can renovate the property and charge higher rents or get around rent control requirements. Some are just bad, slow landlords.
Whatever the reason, you have a right to a habitable apartment, but you must tread carefully in deciding how to deal with it. Some courses of action will get your apartment fixed. Others could see you evicted.
First and foremost, know that you have protection under New York’s Warranty of Habitability laws. By law, your landlord must make certain repairs related to the apartment’s health and safety. Some damages, those caused by renters, are the responsibility of the renters.
Here are the steps you should take:
Notify your landlord that the repairs need to be made. Retain any proof of the notification. Use email, texts, or a written letter.
Try tipping the super to get the repair done.
Call the housing inspector, building inspector, or code enforcement officer if your landlord doesn’t respond. It is illegal for the landlord to retaliate because you made this call. If your landlord starts trying to evict you after you call to complain about repairs, contact a real estate lawyer right away.
Write to the landlord saying if the work isn’t done, you intend to do it and deduct the cost. Keep a copy of the letter.
Schedule parts and labor. Get receipts. When you pay the next month’s rent, include a letter with copies of the receipts (keep the originals) that tells the landlord what work you did, why, and how much it cost. Include before and after pictures. Keep copies of the pictures.
If the landlord tries to evict you after you repair and deduct or the problem is something you can’t repair on your own, it is time to reach out to a lawyer. Rent withholding is the next step, but you want to ensure you do it correctly so you don’t end up on the losing end of an eviction lawsuit. When you withhold rent, you must put it into an escrow account; you can’t spend it. It’s not free rent. If you are on a public assistance grant, you can ask the Department of Social Services to withhold the rent share.
If the building itself is a mess, you may have grounds to contact the NYC Department of Buildings.
Get Help Today
Dealing with New York landlords can be frustrating and difficult.
You don’t have to go it alone. If you’re having an issue with a New York City apartment, contact our office to get help today.
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