Landlord won't make repairs? What tenants can do

Living in New York City is a dream for millions of residents. However, that dream can become a nightmare if they find themselves battling a landlord over failed housing repairs.

Landlords must abide by a state law prohibiting conditions in an apartment that endanger occupants or are detrimental to their health and safety. You should know what you can do if your landlord is not performing necessary repairs or adjusting the rent accordingly.

Types of problems

First, understand the types of problems landlords must address, in accordance with the Warranty of Habitability. Landlords may be in breach of this warranty if they do not appropriately address:

  • Lack of hot water
  • Inadequate heating
  • Insect infestations
  • Lead paint
  • Broken or missing smoke or carbon monoxide detectors
  • Broken or missing locks or intercoms at entrances

These and similar issues are crucial to the health and safety of residents, so they are among those that a landlord has a duty to fix.

What to do

If the landlord does not make the repairs, tenants can take the following steps.

First, notify the landlord of the condition. You should also review your lease for specific details regarding repairs. If there is no response or if the repair is not made in a timely manner, contact the owner of the building by sending a certified letter.

If there is still no resolution, tenants should call 311 to file a complaint with either the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development or the Department of Buildings. An inspector will come to determine if there is a code violations. Code violations have to be repaired within anywhere from 24 hours to 90 days, depending on the severity.

If there is still no response, you may sue the landlord in Housing Court in what is called an "HP" proceeding or withhold rent. Understand that withholding rent could lead to eviction efforts for nonpayment, so it can be wise to consult an attorney to determine if this is an appropriate solution.

Housing is expensive in this city; living in a place that is dangerous or uninhabitable is unacceptable. Those subjected to such conditions have the right to take action.

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