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As a tenant in New York City you have the right to a safe, decent home. That means you are entitled to basic services needed to live comfortably throughout every season and that your landlord has a legal duty to provide them.
Heat & Hot Water
Building owners are legally required to provide heat during the winter season (from October 1st through May 31st) and hot water year-round.
Duty to Repair
Landlords must keep the apartments and the building’s public areas in “good repair” and clean and free of vermin, garbage or other offensive material. Landlords are required to maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating and ventilating systems and appliances landlords install, such as refrigerators and stoves, in good and safe working order. Landlords are also required to install functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all apartments.
Lead paint can be a severe health hazard to you and your family. As a result, it is your landlord’s duty to ensure that your apartment is clear of lead paint hazards. In performing any work that disturbs lead paint in applicable apartments and common areas, a landlord must hire workers who have completed a training course in lead-safe work practices. Landlords must remove or permanently cover apartment walls and other areas where lead based paint is peeling. Landlords must keep records of all notices, inspections, and repairs of lead paint hazards and provide every tenant with an informational pamphlet from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Entering Your Home & Unlawful Eviction
In general in New York City, a landlord may only enter a tenant’s apartment for three reasons: emergency repairs, non-emergency repairs or improvements, andapartment inspections. Emergency repair requires no advance notice to the tenant.However, access for non-emergency repairs and improvements requires a minimum ofone week’s advance written notice, and access for inspection requires a minimum of 24 hours advance written notice.
A landlord may not evict a tenant from his or her apartment without a proper warrant of eviction. If the landlord changes the locks to your apartment and does not provide you with a new key, it is considered an unlawful eviction and should be reported to your local police precinct or brought to the New York City Housing Court. For more information: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/nyc/housing/illegal.shtml
Reporting a Problem in Your Apartment
New York City tenants are entitled to safe, decent housing. Their landlords, in turn, are required by law to provide the basic essential services that tenants need to live comfortably. If a landlord fails to provide such services or to repair poor living conditions, a tenant may report the problem to the City's Citizen Service Center by calling 311 (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing 212-NEW-YORK). For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115. The Center is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
If the problem you report is an emergency (e.g. severe leak, mold, or dangerous structural defect), the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will send a uniformed Code Enforcement Inspector to the apartment to verify the reported conditions. The inspector will then provide the tenant with the following materials:
- A summary of issued violations
- A complaint number
- The date of inspection
- The inspector's badge number
Brochures outlining the tenant’s rights and responsibilities and the most common health and safety violations issued by HPD to help the tenant better understand his/her rights and responsibilities.
The landlord will also be notified of the complaint. If violation conditions are verified by the Inspector, a Notice of Violation will be sent to the landlord instructing him/her to repair the condition. If the landlord fails to correct immediately hazardous conditions, HPD's Emergency Repair Program may repair the condition and bill the landlord for the cost of the repairs. Tenants can ask about the status of emergency repair work in their apartments by calling (212) 863-5510.
Taking Further Action against a Landlord
If the problem persists or the landlord refuses to repair the conditions, a tenant or group of tenants can take direct legal action against the building owner by filing a case with the New York City Housing Court. This is called an HP Action. For more information about HP Actions, please visit the HPD website at http://www.nyc.gov/html/hpd/html/tenants/housing-court-info.shtml.
Source: Informational materials adapted from HPD.