Apartment hunting in NYC is notoriously challenging. It’s easy for people in this situation to feel desperate if their search isn’t going well. You want to make sure, however, that you are not letting the pressure of the search affect your good judgement, or you could end up in a dangerous situation.
When you can’t find an apartment in your price range or your preferred location, you may be tempted to take risks you would not otherwise take. In some cases, this results in renting an illegal apartment.
What makes an apartment illegal?
One way an apartment can be illegal is if the landlord is renting individual rooms to different tenants. In these instances, each tenant rents a bedroom and they share the rest of the apartment.
Leasing individual rooms in an apartment is illegal for many reasons and one of them is because it can be dangerous. For example, the landlord may put locks on each bedroom door, which may block egress in an emergency such as a fire.
Tenants’ right attorney Sam Himmelstein also notes that these situations may break the law because the apartments are functioning like Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels, but without following the regulations of SROs, including fire safety regulations.
In addition to the safety violations, renting out individual rooms allows the landlord to charge more for each bedroom, thus taking in rent that is higher than the unit’s legal rent (in rent-stabilized apartments). This is a way for landlords to get around rent stabilization laws.
Don’t put yourself in danger
Moving into an illegal apartment is risky for many reasons. Don’t take the chance; keep looking until you find the right place.