Tenants in New York have more rights than those that rent in most other states. A long history of urban housing problems has led to a significant amount of progressive legislation that effectively makes renter's rights much more important than a landlord's short term bottom line.
Just like with all types of rights, the rights of tenants are only useful if people know that they have them. This quick guide will outline some of your renter's rights that are most often violated by the landlord or building owners.
Firsts and foremost: Discrimination in housing - including on the basis of sexual orientation - in any facet of the housing market is legally forbidden, and New York City has a particularly strong Human Rights Commission that helps enforce anti-housing discrimination statutes. If you think you've been the victim of discrimination either as a tenant or potential renter, contact the commission immediately.
Second, you have the right to a heated home from October 1 - May 31. If the heat doesn't work, or if the heat is below 68 degrees Fahrenheit during that time, then you have the right to withhold a portion of the next month's rent equatable to the portion of the month that the heat didn't work.
Likewise, you have the right to a safe, healthy and habitable New York City apartment environment. If the hot water doesn't work, or there is a rodent or bug infestation, that's the same as the heat not working in the middle of winter, and you should act accordingly.
The guarantees of safety also mean that, if you are in a basement or ground floor, you have the right to working window protectors that keep anyone from coming through your window, as well as the right to an appropriate number of smoke alarms throughout your apartment (which will also help keep down the cost of your New York Cityrenters insurance).
Similarly, you have the right to at all times have a working lock on your door that keeps everybody that doesn't have a key out.
One of the least known tenant rights is the right to have a mirror in all service elevators. This gives everybody the right to see if there is anybody in the elevator before getting in, and cuts down slightly on crime rates.
Perhaps most importantly, the landlord does not have the right to evict you without a court order. Only a court order can lead to you eviction, no matter what an irate landlord might say.
In sum, renters have the right to safety, warmth, a healthy environment and all the other aspects of having a home so important. These things are quality of life issues for you to debate with your landlord, they are rights that should never be violated. If they are, the New York City housing courts are a powerful way for tenants to make sure that they are financially compensated.
When trying to find the perfect New York Apartment, resources like CityCribs.com and the NYTtimes.com provide an easy to use and comprehensive selection of rental properties. And while you're at it, it's a good time to begin looking for a good source of New York Cityrenters insurance.
Nicholas Adams Judge is a freelance writer specializing in business, politics and economics. He holds a B.A. in political science and will begin his PhD studies in political economy and public opinion next fall. He has studied economics and political science at a number of different institutions, both here and in the U.K., including Amherst College, Warwick University, Oxford University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
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