In New York City, the law gives all residential tenants the right to a safe, decent, and sanitary living space. This right, commonly referred to as the warranty of habitability, is implied in every written or oral lease and applies to the room or apartment rented as well as the public areas of the building.
5 Things You Need to Know About Getting Repairs in Your Apartment
Note: The landlord may commence a non-payment eviction case against you if you do not pay the rent but you will be able to raise the lack of repairs as a defense and ask the court for an abatement.
Generally, the landlord may hire or use any employees to do repairs, including the super or porter of the building. For some major work, however, the law requires that the landlord use licensed contractors such as an electrician or plumber. Specially trained workers are also required for lead paint removal.
Unless the workers are causing imminent harm or danger to you, other occupants, or the building, you should not reject or interfere with workers doing repairs in your apartment or building. Immediately contact the landlord and other appropriate authorities if you feel threatened or in danger.
Tenants must give the owner, its agents, and/or its employees, access for repairs or improvements or to inspect the apartment. Access is generally provided on weekdays (except holidays) from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Unless otherwise agreed to, the landlord must request access in writing with at least one week’s notice for repairs and 24 hour notice for inspections. The request for access must be for a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner.
In an emergency, the landlord, its agents, and/or its employees may enter an apartment, without prior notice or consent, to prevent damage to property or injury to persons. However, in the absence of a clear emergency – such as a gas leak or water cascading from the ceiling – no one may enter your apartment without your permission.
The landlord should complete the repairs within a reasonable amount of time after learning about the condition. The tenant and landlord can negotiate what is a reasonable amount of time. In an HP proceeding, a reasonable amount of time is defined as follows:
It is the landlord’s obligation to make any and all necessary repairs to your room, apartment and/or building. This is so even where the landlord alleges the conditions in need of repair were caused by you or other persons associated with you.
Bear in mind that most leases prohibit tenants from making alterations to the apartment, such as putting up or taking down walls, without the landlord’s prior permission. You should get the landlord’s authorization and consent (preferably in writing) before doing any work in your apartment.
Beware: Not doing so may result in an eviction proceeding commenced against you.
You may use rent money to make emergency repairs if, after giving the landlord notice of the condition(s) and a reasonable amount of time to do the work, the landlord fails or refuses to do so.
Beware: Failure to follow these steps may result in your having to pay for the cost of the repair as well as the rent and, in an eviction proceeding being commenced against you
You or a group of tenants may also use the rent money to purchase oil for heat or pay the public area utilities bill (e.g. ConEdison) if the landlord does not provide oil for heat or, fails to pay the utilities bill for the public areas of the building and there is a threatened or actual shutoff of utilities in the public areas of the building.
It is wise and highly recommended that you consult legal counsel or an experienced and knowledgeable tenant advocate before taking this step.
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 28 September 2022
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