Tenant Rights in NYC You Need to Know

Despite all the griping we do about our government, once in a while, it gives us something useful we can work with. Like this handy New York State tenant rights guide for those of us who are terrified of paperwork, signatures, and binding obligations. The actual document is quite a few pages in length, so we decided to put the best, most pertinent rules together in one easy-to-read blog post.

New York Tenant Rights

Difference between rent-controlled, rent-stabilized, and unregulated apartments

Before we get into renters rights, it’s important to understand the difference between rent-controlled, rent-stabilized, and unregulated apartments.

  • Rent-controlled apartments usually belong to tenants who have been living in the same unit continuously since July 1, 1971. These apartments have strict rules that protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases and landlord demands, like unwarranted eviction. These types of apartments are extremely stable and protective of renter rights.
  • Rent-stabilized apartments are usually located in 6+ unit buildings built between February 1, 1947 and December 31, 1973. These apartments also have rules that protect tenants from being evicted without cause and that provides for living essentials.
  • Unregulated apartments refer to any and all apartments that do not fall into either of these two classifications (i.e., the vast majority of apartments in New York City), or rent-stabilized apartments that have a monthly rent of over $2,000 upon move-in. Unregulated apartments have fewer provisions that protect renters.

Keep in mind that “unregulated” doesn’t have anything to do with whether a room is rented via broker. The majority of apartments on Craigslist and apartment listings on Naked Apartments are all unregulated. However, one of the major advantages of working with a broker is that all your paperwork will be in order.

If you aren’t sure what type of apartment you currently live in or are looking at, you can either contact the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), or ask your broker or landlord.

But, no matter what type of apartment you live in – it’s important to know your rights as a New York City tenant before you sign your lease.

Landlord Responsibilities and Tenant Protections

  • Landlords may not exempt themselves from liability for injuries to persons or property caused by the landlord’s negligence, or that of the landlord’s employees or agents. General Obligations Law Section 5-321
  • Landlords may not waive a tenant’s right to a jury trial in any lawsuit brought by either of the parties against the other for personal injury or property damage. Real Property Law Section 259-c
  • Landlords may not require tenants to pledge their household furniture as security for rent. Real Property Law Section 231
  • If a lease states that the landlord may recover attorney’s fees and costs incurred if a lawsuit arises, a tenant automatically has a reciprocal right to recover those fees as well. Real Property Law Section 234
  • Landlords must provide tenants with a written receipt when rent is paid in cash, a money order, a cashier’s check or in any form other than the personal check of a tenant. The receipt must state the payment date, the amount, the period for which the rent was paid, and the apartment number. The receipt must be signed by the person receiving the payment and state his or her title. Real Property Law Section 235-e

Rent Increases, Length of Lease and Renewals

  • If a lease for an unregulated apartment contains an automatic renewal clause, the landlord must give the tenant advance notice of the existence of this clause between 15 and 30 days before the tenant is required to notify the landlord of an intention not to renew the lease. General Obligations Law Section 5-905
  • Rent stabilized tenants have a right to a one or two year renewal lease, which must be on the terms and conditions as the prior lease. After the notice of renewal is given by the landlord, the tenant has 60 days in which to accept.
  • Month-to-month tenants may choose to end their occupancy by giving at least 30 days’ notice before the expiration of the tenancy. Landlords may terminate occupancy under the same provisions. Real Property Law Section 232-a
  • If a landlord raises month-to-month rent and the tenant does not consent, the landlord may only terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice. Real Property Law Section 232-b
  • Tenants who are senior citizens or disabled may be granted certain exemptions from rent increases in rent-regulated apartments. In order to determine eligibility, tenants should contact the DHCR and inquire about Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) or Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE).

Utility Services

  • Heat must be supplied from October 1 through May 31 to tenants in multiple dwellings. This time period is commonly referred to as “heating season” in NYC. If the outdoor temperature falls below 55°F between the hours of six a.m. and ten p.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 68°F. If the outdoor temperature falls below 40°F between the hours of ten p.m. and six a.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 55°F. Multiple Dwelling Law Section 79
  • Landlords must provide all tenants of multiple dwellings with both hot and cold water. Multiple Dwelling Law Section 75