Friday, March 30, 2018

Ten Tenant Rights Your Landlord Doesn't Want You to Know


Source: Time Out

1. You legally have the right to ask the landlord, repairman or anyone else to leave your apartment at any time (Castle Doctrine).

2. The landlord must give adequate notice (at least 48 hours) before entering a tenant’s property, and may only do so without notice if there's an emergency.

3. You can check the 311 website to see how many complaints were issued (and what they were about) for your address.

4. You can get a background check on your landlord and the property company by asking the building or management office.

5. Rent can be negotiable—though your landlord’s corporation and receptiveness will differ!

6. If a bedroom doesn’t have a closet or a window, then it is not a “legal” bedroom and could be considered a firetrap.

7. If there are serious repairs that affect your health and safety, you may legally withhold rent. We’ve all heard of the case where the woman won millions over stupid repairs, right?

8. Want to know if your building is rent stabilized? Well, there's a website for that: amirentstabilized.com

9. What’s the worst thing that could happen to any renter? Two words: Bed bugs. Your landlord is legally required to get rid of those gruesome pests within 30 days, and must cover the cost of extermination.

10. You can bad-mouth your apartment and landlord to your mom, the police, the media—anyone! As long as you're honest, of course. But your landlord cannot threaten you by decreasing service, increasing rent or preventing you from renewing your lease.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Has the Landlord Breached The Warranty of Habitability in Your Apartment? How to Know.

Warranty of Habitability

Every lease for residential property impliedly contains what's called the "Warranty of Habitability." This means that every landlord impliedly warrants the following:
  1. That the premises are fit for human habitation;
  2. That the condition of the premises is in accord with the uses reasonably intended by the parties; and
  3. That the tenants are not subjected to any conditions endangering or detrimental to their life, health, or safety.’
If the landlord breaches the Warranty of Habitability, you, as a tenant do not have to pay rent to a landlord.

"The obligation to pay rent is dependent upon the landlord's satisfactory maintenance of the premises in habitable condition" (Park West Management Corp. v. Mitchell, 47 N.Y.2d 316).

Furthermore, if the landlord takes you to court because you owe rent, judges regularly grant tenants a reduction in the arrears if the judge finds there was a breach of the Warranty of Habitability.

Also, although landlords often add unenforceable clauses to leases in order to intimidate tenants from seeking to enforce their rights, you are not always required by law to obey these unenforceable clauses, even if you signed the lease.

Lastly, the law does not permit a waiver of this warranty in the lease. If the landlord attempts to do so, such a waiver in unenforceable as contrary to public policy.

Determining Whether Warranty of Habitability Has Been Breached

To determine whether the landlord has breached the Warranty of Habitability, ask yourself the following question:
Would a reasonable person consider such defect(s) a deprivation of those essential functions which a residence is expected to provide?
(Operative language: "deprivation of essential functions." In other words, does the present condition of the space prevent you from using it for its intended purpose?)

The following have been considered to be breaches of the Warranty of Habitability in the State of New York:
  • Asbestos which could become air-borne in the tenants' apartment.
  • Decrease in or lack of elevator service.
  • Broken floor tiles which create a hazardous condition.
  • Substantial accumulations of garbage that lead to infestations of insects or vermin.
  • Failure to provide heat and hot water for extended periods.
  • Severe infestation of insects and vermin.
  • Lead-based paint, especially where small children reside.
  • Deprivations of air, light, and/or ventilation.
  • Excessive noise as from construction, mechanical equipment, or even neighboring tenants when the landlord fails to take effective steps to abate the nuisance.
  • offensive fumes and odors.
  • Defective plumbing.
  • Inadequate security (e.g. damaged entrance locks, door buzzers, etc.).
  • Sewage leaks and spills.
  • Failure to provide smoke detectors.
  • Disruptions in water service.
  • Lack of window guards when required by local ordinances to protect children.
Please note, however, that any conditions caused by the misconduct of a tenant or by persons under the tenant's direction or control do not trigger a breach of warranty.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

New York Consolidated Laws, Real Property Law - RPP § 223-b. Retaliation by landlord against tenant

Landlord Retaliation is Illegal.

Based on experiences of residents in our buildings and from personal experience, this is an important read for all tenants of ABC Properties and affiliated entities.


1. No landlord of premises or units to which this section is applicable shall serve a notice to quit upon any tenant or commence any action to recover real property or summary proceeding to recover possession of real property in retaliation for:
a. A good faith complaint, by or in behalf of the tenant, to a governmental authority of the landlord's alleged violation of any health or safety law, regulation, code, or ordinance, or any law or regulation which has as its objective the regulation of premises used for dwelling purposes or which pertains to the offense of rent gouging in the third, second or first degree;  or
b. Actions taken in good faith, by or in behalf of the tenant, to secure or enforce any rights under the lease or rental agreement, under section two hundred thirty-five-b of this chapter, or under any other law of the state of New York, or of its governmental subdivisions, or of the United States which has as its objective the regulation of premises used for dwelling purposes or which pertains to the offense of rent gouging in the third, second or first degree;  or
c. The tenant's participation in the activities of a tenant's organization.
2. No landlord or premises or units to which this section is applicable shall substantially alter the terms of the tenancy in retaliation for any actions set forth in paragraphs a, b, and c of subdivision one of this section.  Substantial alteration shall include, but is not limited to, the refusal to continue a tenancy of the tenant or, upon expiration of the tenant's lease, to renew the lease or offer a new lease;  provided, however, that a landlord shall not be required under this section to offer a new lease or a lease renewal for a term greater than one year and after such extension of a tenancy for one year shall not be required to further extend or continue such tenancy.
3. A landlord shall be subject to a civil action for damages and other appropriate relief, including injunctive and other equitable remedies, as may be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction in any case in which the landlord has violated the provisions of this section.
4. In any action to recover real property or summary proceeding to recover possession of real property, judgment shall be entered for the tenant if the court finds that the landlord is acting in retaliation for any action set forth in paragraphs a, b, and c of subdivision one of this section and further finds that the landlord would not otherwise have commenced such action or proceeding.  Retaliation shall be asserted as an affirmative defense in such action or proceeding.  The tenant shall not be relieved of the obligation to pay any rent for which he is otherwise liable.
5. In an action or proceeding instituted against a tenant of premises or a unit to which this section is applicable, a rebuttable presumption that the landlord is acting in retaliation shall be created if the tenant establishes that the landlord served a notice to quit, or instituted an action or proceeding to recover possession, or attempted to substantially alter the terms of the tenancy, within six months after:
a. A good faith complaint was made, by or in behalf of the tenant, to a governmental authority of the landlord's violation of any health or safety law, regulation, code, or ordinance, or any law or regulation which has as its objective the regulation of premises used for dwelling purposes or which pertains to the offense of rent gouging in the third, second or first degree;  or
b. The tenant in good faith commenced an action or proceeding in a court or administrative body of competent jurisdiction to secure or enforce against the landlord or his agents any rights under the lease or rental agreement, under section two hundred thirty-five-b of this chapter, or under any other law of the state of New York, or of its governmental subdivisions, or of the United States which has as its objective the regulation of premises used for dwelling purposes or which pertains to the offense of rent gouging in the third, second or first degree.
c. Judgment under subdivision three or four of this section was entered for the tenant in a previous action between the parties;  or an inspection was made, an order was entered, or other action was taken as a result of a complaint or act described in paragraph a or b of this subdivision.
But the presumption shall not apply in an action or proceeding based on the violation by the tenant of the terms and conditions of the lease or rental agreement, including nonpayment of the agreed-upon rent.
The effect of the presumption shall be to require the landlord to provide a credible explanation of a non-retaliatory motive for his acts.  Such an explanation shall overcome and remove the presumption unless the tenant disproves it by a preponderance of the evidence.
5-a. Any lease provision which seeks to assess a fee, penalty or dollar charge, in addition to the stated rent, against a tenant because such tenant files a bona fide complaint with a building code officer regarding the condition of such tenant's leased premises shall be null and void as being against public policy.  A landlord who seeks to enforce such a fee, penalty or charge shall be liable to the tenant for triple the amount of such fee, penalty or charge.
6. This section shall apply to all rental residential premises except owner-occupied dwellings with less than four units.  However, its provisions shall not be given effect in any case in which it is established that the condition from which the complaint or action arose was caused by the tenant, a member of the tenant's household, or a guest of the tenant.  Nor shall it apply in a case where a tenancy was terminated pursuant to the terms of a lease as a result of a bona fide transfer of ownership.