Residential Landlord/Tenant Guide

April 1996 edition

Table of Contents

Apartment Referral Agencies
Apartment Sharing
Continuation of Utility Service
Duty of Repair
Elevator Mirrors
Entrance Door Locks and Intercoms
Heating Season
Individual Locks, Peepholes and Mail
Landlord's Right of Entry
Lead Paint
Lease Agreements
Lease Succession Rights
Lease Terminations for Military Personnel
Lobby Attendant Service
Month-to-Month Tenants
Oil Payments
Real Estate Brokers
Renewal Leases
Rent Charges
Rent Security Deposits
Senior Citizen Lease Terminations
Smoke Detectors
Special Types of Housing
Subletting or Assigning Leases
Tenants Organizations
Truth In Heating
Warranty of Habitability
Window Guards
To Find Out More


This booklet is designed as a guide to highlight some of the principal rights, duties and responsibilities of residential landlords and tenants in this state. These rights, duties and responsibilities are governed by a variety of state and local laws. In addition, those areas of the state which are subject to rent stabilization, rent control or other rent regulation, may have special rules applicable to certain dwellings. For example, rent stabilization laws apply in New York City and in certain communities in Nassau, Rockland and Westchester counties. Landlord and tenants are advised to consult a lawyer regarding particular situations of concern to them.

Apartment Referral Agencies

Businesses that charge a fee for providing information about the location and availability of rental housing must be licensed by the state. The fees charged by these firms may not exceed one month's rent. When the information the firms provide does not result in a rental, the entire amount of any prepaid fee, less $15.00, must be returned to the tenant. Criminal prosecution for violations of this law may be brought by the Attorney General. (Real Property Law, Article 12-C)

Apartment Sharing

Landlords may limit the total number of people living in an apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards. (Real Property Law §235-f) However, it is unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and immediate family. When the lease names only one tenant, that tenant may share the apartment with immediate family, one additional occupant and the occupant's dependent children, provided that the tenant or the tenant's spouse occupies the premises as his primary residence.

When the lease names more than one tenant, these tenants may share their apartment with immediate family, and if one of the tenants named in the lease moves out, that tenant may be replaced with another occupant and the dependent children of the occupant. At least one of the tenants named in the lease or the tenant's spouse must occupy the shared apartment as his or her primary residence.

Tenants must inform their landlords of the name of any occupant within 30 days after the occupant has moved into the apartment or within 30 days of landlord's request for this information. If the tenant named in the lease moves out, the remaining occupant has no right to continue in occupancy without the landlord's express consent.

Continuation of Utility Service

When the landlord of a multiple dwelling is delinquent in paying utility bills, the utility must give advance written notice to tenants and to certain government agencies of its intent to discontinue service. Service may not be discontinued if tenants pay the landlord's current bill directly to the utility company. Tenants can deduct these charges from future rent payments. The Public Service Commission can assist tenants with related problems.

If a landlord of a multiple dwelling fails to pay a utility bill and service is discontinued, tenants can receive payment damages from the landlord. (Real Property Law §235-a; Public Service Law §33)


In the absence of discrimination, landlords may refuse to rent to anyone. Landlords may not refuse to lease accommodations to or renew leases of, or otherwise discriminate against, any person or group of persons because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, marital status or familial status. (Executive Law §296 (5)) The New York State Attorney General's office enforces the states anti-discrimination laws.

Landlords may not refuse to lease an apartment or discriminate against any person in the terms and conditions of the rental because that person has children living with them. An aggrieved family may bring a lawsuit for damages and for an injunction against a landlord who violates this law. (Real Property Law §236) In addition, a lease may not require that tenants agree to remain childless during tenancy. (Real Property Law §237)

In New York City, landlords may not refuse to lease an apartment solely for residential purposes or discriminate in the terms and conditions of the rental because of a person's lawful occupation, sexual orientation or immigration status. Aggrieved tenants may complain to the New York City Human Rights Commission. (NYC Admin. Code §8-107(5)(a)) Outside New York City you can contact the New York State Division of Human Rights. (Executive Law §293)

Duty of Repair

Landlords of buildings with three or more apartments must keep the apartments and buildings public areas in "good repair" and clean and free of vermin, garbage or other offensive material. Electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating systems and appliances landlords install, such as refrigerator and stoves, must be maintained by them in good and safe working order. [ Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL) §78 and §80; Multiple Residence Law (MRL) § 174. The MDL applies to cities with a population of 325,000 or more and the MRL applies to cities with less than 325,000.]

Elevator Mirrors

There must be a mirror in each self-service elevator in multiple dwellings so that people may see -- prior to entering-- if anyone is already in the elevator. (Multiple Dwelling Law §51-b; NY Admin. Code §27-2042)

Entrance Door Locks and Intercoms

Multiple dwellings which were built or converted to such use after January 1, 1968 must have automatic self-closing and self-locking doors at all entrances. These doors must be kept locked at all times -- except when an attendant is on duty.

If this type of building contains eight or more apartments it must also have a two-way voice intercom system from each apartment to the front door and tenants must be able to "buzz" open the entrance door for visitors.

Multiple dwellings built or converted to such use prior to January 1, 1968 also must have self-locking doors and a two-way intercom system if requested by a majority of the tenants. Landlords may recover from tenants the cost of providing this equipment (Multiple Dwelling Law §50-a)


Following appropriate notice, a landlord may bring a summary non-payment court proceeding to evict a tenant who fails to pay the agreed rent when due and to recover outstanding rent. A Landlord may also bring a summary holdover eviction proceeding if, for example, a tenant significantly violates a substantial obligation under the lease, such as using the premises for illegal purposes, committing or permitting a nuisance, or staying beyond the lease term without permission. (RPAPL §711)

Only a sheriff, marshal or constable can carry out a court ordered warrant to evict a tenant. (RPAPL §749) A landlord may not take the law into his/her own hands and evict a tenant by use of force or unlawful means. For example, a landlord cannot use threats of violence, remove a tenant's possessions, lock the tenant out of the apartment, or willfully discontinue essential services such as water or heat. (Real Property Law §235) When a tenant is evicted, the landlord may not retain the tenant's personal belongings or furniture.

A tenant who is put out of his/her apartment in a forcible or unlawful manner is entitled to recover triple damages in a legal action against the wrongdoer. Landlords in New York City who use illegal methods to force a tenant to move are also subject to both criminal and civil penalties. Further, the tenant is entitled to be restored to occupancy. (RPAPL §713, §853)

Heating Season

Heat must be supplied from October 1 through May 31, to tenants in multiple dwellings if: a) the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, between the hours of 10 P.M. and 6 A.M., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit; b) the outdoor temperature falls below 40 degrees fahrenheit, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., each apartment must be heated to a temperature of at least 55 degrees fahrenheit (Multiple Dwelling Law §79)

Individual Locks, Peepholes and Mail

Tenants in multiple dwellings can install and maintain their own locks on their apartment entrance doors in addition to the lock supplied by the landlord. The lock may be no more than three inches in circumference, and tenants must provide their landlord with a duplicate key upon request. (Multiple Law §51-c; NY Admin. Code §27-2043)

The Landlord must provide a peephole in the entrance door of each apartment. Landlords of multiple dwellings in New York City must also install a chain-door guard on the entrance door to each apartment, so as to permit partial opening of the door. (Multiple Dwelling Law §51-a; NY Admin. Code §27-2041)

United States Postal Regulations require landlords of buildings containing three or more apartments to provide secure mail boxes for each apartment unless the management has arranged to distribute the mail to each apartment. Landlords must keep the mail boxes and locks in good repair.

Landlord's Right of Entry

A landlord may enter a tenant's apartment with reasonable prior notice, and at a reasonable time: (a) to provide necessary or agreed upon repairs or services; or (b) in accordance with the lease; or (c) to show the apartment to prospective purchasers or tenants. In emergencies, such as fires, the landlord may enter the apartment without the tenant's consent.

Lead Paint

Landlords of apartments in multiple dwellings in New York City where a child 6 years or younger lives must protect against the possibility that children will be poisoned by peeling paint containing dangerous lead based paint. Landlords must remove or cover lead based paint which is peeling on apartment walls and other areas. The law presumes that lead based paint was used in the apartment if the structure was built prior to January 1, 1960. (NYC Health Code §173.14)

Lease Agreements

A lease is a contract between a landlord and tenant which contains the terms and conditions of rental. It cannot be changed while it is in effect unless both parties agree. Rent stabilized tenants have the right to either a one or two year lease when they move into an apartment. Leases for apartments which are not rent stabilized may be oral or written. However, to avoid disputes, the parties may wish to enter into a written agreement. An oral lease for more than one year cannot be legally enforced. (General Obligation Law §5-701)

At a minimum, leases should specify the names and addresses of the parties, the amount and due dates of the rent, the duration of the rental, the conditions of occupancy and the rights and obligations of both parties. Except where the law provides otherwise, a landlord may rent on such terms and conditions as are agreed to by the parties.

Leases must use words with common and everyday meanings and must be clear and coherent. Sections of leases must be appropriately captioned and the print must be large enough to read easily. (General Obligations Law §5-702; CPLR §4544)

Unless the lease states otherwise, the apartment must be made available to the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy. If the apartment is not available when agreed, the tenant has the right to cancel the lease and obtain a full refund of any deposit. (Real Property Law §223-a)

Lease provisions which exempt landlords from liability for injuries to persons or property caused by the landlord's negligence -- or that of his employees -- are null and void. Further, a lease provision that waives the right to a jury trial in any lawsuit brought by either of the parties against the other for personal injury or property damage is also null and void. (General Obligations Law §5-321; Real Property Law §259-c)

If the court finds a lease or any lease clause to have been unconscionable at the time it was made, the court may refuse to enforce the lease or the clause in question. (Real Property Law §235-c) A lease provision which requires a tenant to pledge his/her household furniture as security for rent is void. (Real Property Law §231)

Where a lease provides for reasonable attorneys' fees to a landlord, a prevailing tenant may also recover such fees. (Real Property Law §234)

New York rent stabilized tenants are entitled to receive from their landlords a fully executed copy of their signed lease within 30 days of the landlord's receipt of the lease signed by the tenant. The lease's beginning and ending dates must be stated. (RSC §2522.5)

Lease Succession Rights

Family members living in an apartment not covered by rent control or rent stabilization generally have no right to succeed a tenant who dies or permanently vacates the premises. The rights of a "family member" living in a rent controlled or stabilized apartment to succeed a tenant of record who dies or permanently vacates are covered by DHCR Regulations. Under these regulations, a "family member" is defined as husband, wife, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the tenant; or any other person residing with the tenant in the apartment as a primary residence who can prove emotional and financial commitment, and interdependence between such person and the tenant.

A family member, as defined, would succeed to the rights of the tenant of record upon the tenant's permanent departure or death, provided the family member lived with such a primary resident either (1) for not less than 2 years (one year in the case of senior citizens who are 62 year or older, and disabled persons), or (2) from the commencement of the tenancy or the relationship (if the tenancy or relationship were less than two years or one year old, as the case may be).

Lease Terminations for Military Personnel

Individuals entering or called to active duty in the military service may terminate a residential lease if (1) the lease was executed by the service member before he /she entered active duty; and (2) the leased premises have been occupied by the member or his/her dependents. Any such lease may be terminated by written notice delivered to the landlord at any time following the beginning of military service. Termination of a lease requiring monthly payments is not effective until 20 days after the first date on which the next rent is due subsequent to the date when the notice of termination is delivered. For example, if rent is due on the first day of the month, and notice is mailed on January 1, then rent is next due on the first of February and the effective date of lease termination is the first of March. (NY Military Law §309)

Lobby Attendant Service

Tenants of multiple dwellings with eight or more apartments, are entitled to maintain a lobby attendant service for their safety and security, whenever any attendant provided by the landlord is not on duty. (Multiple Dwelling Law §50-c)

Month-to-Month Tenants

Tenants who do not have leases and pay rent on a monthly basis are called month-to-month tenants. In localities without rent regulation, tenants who stay past the end of a lease are treated as month-to-month tenants if the landlord accepts their rent. (Real Property Law §232-c)

A month-to-month tenancy outside New York City may be terminated by either party by giving at least one month's notice before the expiration of the term. For example, if the rent is due on the first of each month, the landlord must inform the tenant by September 30th before the October rent is due that he wants the tenant to move out by November 1st. The termination notice need not specify why the landlord seeks possession of the apartment. Such notice does not automatically allow the landlord to evict the tenant. A landlord may raise the rent of a month-to-month tenant with the consent of the tenant. However, if the tenant does not consent, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice (Real Property Law §232-b)

In New York City, the landlord must serve the tenant with a written termination giving 30 days notice before the expiration of the term. The notice must state that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to eviction proceedings. (Real Property Law §232-a)

Oil Payments

Tenants in oil heated multiple dwellings may contract with an oil dealer, and pay for oil deliveries to their building, when the landlord fails to ensure a sufficient fuel supply. These payments are deductible from rent. Local housing officials have lists of oil dealers who will make fuel deliveries under these circumstances. (Multiple Dwelling Law §302-c; Multiple Residence Law §305-c)


Tenants may keep pets in their apartments if their lease permits pets or is silent on the subject. Landlords may be able to evict tenants who violate a lease provision prohibiting pets. In multiple dwellings in New York City, a "no pet" lease clause is deemed waived where a tenant "openly and notoriously" kept a pet for at least three months and the owner of the building or his agent had knowledge of this fact. However, this protection does not apply where the animal causes damage, is a nuisance or substantially interferes with other tenants. (NYC Admin. Code §27-2009.1) Tenants who are blind or deaf are permitted to have guide dogs regardless of a no-pet clause in their lease. (Civil Rights Law §47)

Real Estate Brokers

A consumer may retain a real estate broker to find a suitable apartment. The state licenses real estate brokers and salespersons. Brokers charge a commission for their services which is usually a stated percentage of the first year's rent. The amount of the commission is not set by law and should be negotiated between the parties. The broker must assist the client in finding and obtaining an apartment before a commission may be charged. The fee should not be paid until the client is offered a lease signed by the landlord. Complaints against real estate brokers may be brought to the attention of the New York Department of State. (Real Property Law, Article 12-A)

Renewal Leases

Except for rent regulated apartments, a tenant may only renew the lease with the consent of the landlord. A lease may contain an automatic renewal clause. In such case, 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 §5-905)

Rent stabilized tenants have a right to renew their leases except under certain circumstances, for example, when the apartment is not used as the tenant's primary residence. The renewal leases for rent stabilized tenants must be on the same terms and conditions as the prior lease but may provide for a rent increase according to rates permitted by the Rent Guidelines Board. Rent stabilized tenants may choose either a one-year or a two-year renewal lease. For New York City rent stabilized tenants, the landlord must give written notice to the tenant of the right to renewal no more than 150 days and not less than 120 days prior to the end of the lease. After the notice of renewal is given , the tenant has 60 days in which to accept. If the tenant does not accept the renewal offer within the prescribed time, the landlord may refuse to renew the lease and seek to evict the tenant through court proceedings.

Rent Charges

Where an apartment is not subject to rent stabilization or rent control or other rent regulation, a landlord is free to charge any rent agreed upon by the parties. If the apartment is subject to such rent regulation, the rent and subsequent rent increases are set by law. A tenant may challenge the regulated rent with the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). If the challenge is upheld, DHCR will order a refund of any overcharges plus interest and, where appropriate, it may assess penalties.

Landlords of rent stabilized buildings may seek rent increases for certain types of building-wide major capital improvements (MCI), such as the replacement of a boiler, and for new services, new equipment or improvements to an apartment in accordance with the law and regulations. Under certain circumstances, a landlord may also apply for a hardship rent increase.

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 personal check of a tenant. Where a tenant pays the rent by personal check, (s)he may request in writing a rent receipt from the landlord. 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 §235-e)

It is illegal for any person to require a prospective tenant to pay a bonus -- commonly called "key money" -- above the lawful rent and security deposit -- for preference in renting a vacant apartment (Penal Law §180.54 et seq.) Key money is not to be confused with fees that may be legally charged by a licensed real estate broker. (See the section below on "Real Estate Brokers")

Rent Security Deposits

Virtually all leases require tenants to give their landlords a security deposit. The security deposit is usually one month's rent. The landlord must return the security deposit, less any lawful deduction, to the tenant at the end of the lease or within a reasonable time thereafter. A landlord may use the security deposit: (a) as reimbursement for the reasonable cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear, if the tenant damages the apartment; or (b) as reimbursement for any unpaid rent.

Landlords, regardless of the number of units in the building must treat the deposits as trust funds belonging to their tenants and they may not co-mingle deposits with their own money. Landlords of buildings with six or more apartments must put all security deposits in New York bank accounts earning interest at the prevailing rate. Each tenant must be informed in writing of the bank's name and address and the amount of the deposit. Landlords are entitled to annual administrative expenses of 1% of the deposit. All other interest earned on the deposits belong to the tenants. Tenants must be given the option of having this interest paid to them annually, applied to rent, or paid at the end of the lease term. If the building has fewer than six apartments, a landlord who voluntarily places the security deposits in an interest bearing account must also follow these rules.

For example: A tenant pays a security deposit of $400.00. The landlord places the deposit in an interest bearing account paying 2.5%. At the end of the year the account will have earned interest of $10.00. The tenant is entitled to $6.00 and the land lord may retain $4.00, 1% of the deposit, as an administrative fee.

If the building is sold, the landlord must transfer all security deposits to the new owner within five days, or return the security deposits to the tenants. Landlords must notify the tenants, by registered or certified mail, of the name and address of the new owner. Purchasers of rent stabilized buildings are directly responsible to tenants for the return of security deposits and interest. This responsibility exists whether or not the new owner received the security deposits from the former landlord.

Purchasers or rent-controlled buildings or buildings containing six or more apartments where tenants have written leases are directly responsible to tenants for the return of security deposits and interest in cases where the purchaser has "actual knowledge" of the security deposits. The law defines specifically when a new owner is deemed to have "actual knowledge" of the security deposits.

When problems arise, tenants should first try to resolve them with the landlord before taking other action. If a dispute cannot be resolved, tenants may contact local office of the Attorney General, Listed at the end of this booklet. (General Obligations Law, Article 7)


Landlords may not seek to evict tenants solely because tenants (a) make good faith complaints to a government agency about violations of any health or safety laws; or (b) take good faith actions to protect rights under their lease; or (c) participate in tenants' organizations. Tenants may collect damages from landlords who violate this law, which applies to all rentals except owner-occupied dwellings with fewer than four units. (Real Property Law §223-b)


Tenants who are victims of crimes in their building or apartment, and who are able to prove that the criminal took advantage of the landlord's failure to make the building reasonably safe, may be able to recover personal and property damages from the landlord.

Senior Citizen Lease Termination

Tenants or their spouses living with them, who are sixty-two years or older, or who will attain such age during the term of their leases, are entitled to terminate leases if they relocate to an adult care facility, a residential health care facility, subsidized low income housing, or other senior citizen housing.

When such tenants give notice of their opportunity to move into one of the above facilities, the landlord must release the tenant from liability to pay rent from the early termination of the lease to the leases original end date and to adjust any payments made in advance.

Senior citizens who wish to avail themselves of this option must do so by written notice to the landlord. The termination date must be effective no earlier than thirty days after the date on which the next rental payment (after the notice is delivered) is due. The notice is deemed delivered five days after mailing. The written notice must include documentation of admission or pending admission to one of the above mentioned facilities. For example, a senior citizen mails a notice to the landlord of his or her intention to terminate the lease on April 5; the notice is deemed received April 10. Since the next rental payment (after April 10) is due May 1, the earliest lease termination date will be effective June 1.

Anyone who interferes with the tenant's or his or her spouse's removal of personal effects, clothing, furniture, or other personal property from the premises to be vacated will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Owners or lessors of a facility or a unit into which a senior citizen is entitled to move after terminating a lease, must advise such tenant, in the admission application form, of the tenant's rights under the law. (Real Property Law §227-a)

Smoke Detectors

Outside New York City and in Buffalo, each apartment in a multiple dwelling (three or more apartments) must be equipped by the landlord with at least one smoke detector that is clearly audible in any sleeping area. (Multiple Residence Law §15; Buffalo Code, Ch. 395)

Landlords of multiple dwellings in New York City must also install one or more approved smoke detectors in each apartment near each room used for sleeping. Tenants may be asked to reimburse the owner up to $10.00 for the cost of purchasing and installing each battery-operated detector. Tenants should test their detectors frequently to make sure they are working properly. (NY Admin. Code§27-2045, §27-2446)

Special Types of Housing

The rights, duties and responsibilities of Mobile Home Parks' owners and tenants are governed by Real Property Law §233, popularly known as the "Mobile Home Owners Bill of Rights". The DHCR has the authority to enforce compliance with this law.

The rights, duties and responsibilities of New York City residential hotel owners and tenants are governed by the rent stabilization law. The DHCR has the authority to enforce compliance with this law.

Subletting or Assigning Leases

A sublet transfers less than the tenant's entire interest while an assignment transfers the entire interest. A tenant's right to assign the lease is much more restricted that the right to sublet.

A tenant may not assign the lease without the landlord's written consent. The landlord may withhold consent without cause. If the landlord reasonably refuses consent, the tenant cannot assign and is not entitled to be released from the lease. If the landlord unreasonably refuses consent, the tenant is entitled to be released from the lease after 30 days notice.

Tenants with leases who live in buildings with four or more apartments have the right to sublet with the landlord's advance consent. The landlord cannot unreasonably withhold consent. If the landlord consents to the sublet, the tenant remains liable to the landlord for the obligations of the lease. If the landlord denies the sublet on reasonable ground, the tenant cannot sublet and the landlord is not required to release the tenant from the lease. If the landlord denies the sublet on unreasonable grounds, the tenant may sublet. If a lawsuit results, the tenant may recover court costs and attorney's fees if a judge rules that the landlord denied the sublet in bad faith.

These steps must be followed by tenants wishing to sublet:

1. The tenant must send a written request to the landlord by certified mail, return receipt requested. The request must contain the following information: (a) the length of the sublease; (b) the name, home and business address of the proposed subtenant; (c) the reason for subletting; (d) the tenant's address during the sublet; (e) the written consent of any co-tenant or guarantor; and (f) a copy of the proposed sublease together with a copy of the tenant's own lease, if available.

2. Within 10 days after the mailing of this request, the landlord may ask the tenant for additional information to help make a decision. Any request for additional information may not be unduly burdensome.

3. Within 30 days after the mailing of the tenant's request to sublet or the additional information requested by the landlord, whichever is later, the landlord must send the tenant a notice of consent, or if consent is denied, the reasons for denial. A landlord's failure to send this written notice is considered a consent to sublet.

4. A sublet or assignment which does not comply with the law may be grounds for eviction.

In addition to these sublet rules, there are additional requirements limited to rent stabilized tenants. These rules include the following:

a) The rent charged to the subtenant cannot exceed the stabilized rent plus a 10% surcharge to the tenant for a furnished sublet. Additionally, the stabilized rent payable to the owner, effective upon the date of subletting, may be increased by a "sublet allowance". A subtenant who is overcharged may file a complaint with DHCR or may sue the prime tenant in court to recover any overcharge plus treble damages, interest, and attorneys' fees. (RSC §2525.6)

b) The prime tenant must establish that at all times he/she has maintained the apartment as a primary residence and intends to reoccupy it at the end of the sublet.

c) The prime tenant, not the subtenant, retains the rights to a renewal lease and any rights resulting from a co-op conversion.

The term of a sublease may extend beyond the term of the prime tenant's lease. The tenant may not sublet for more than two years within any four-year period. (Real Property Law §226-b, RSC §2525.6)

Tenants Organization

Tenants have a legal right to organize. They may form, join, and participate in tenants' organizations for the purpose of protecting their rights. Landlords may not harass or penalize tenants who exercise this right. Tenants' groups have the right to meet in any common area in their building, at no cost, in a peaceful manner, at reasonable hours without obstructing access to the premises or facilities. (Real Property Law §230)

Truth in Heating

Before signing a lease requiring payment of individual heating and cooling bills prospective tenants are entitled to receive from the landlord, a complete set or summary of the past two years' bills. These copies must be provided free upon written request. (Energy Law §17-103)

Warranty of Habitability

Tenants are entitled to a livable, safe and sanitary apartment. Lease provisions inconsistent with this right are illegal. Failure to provide heat or hot water on a regular basis, or to rid an apartment of insect infestation are examples of a violation of this warranty. Public areas of the building are also covered by the warranty of habitability. The warranty of habitability also applies to cooperative apartments but not to condominiums. Any uninhabitable condition caused by the misconduct of the tenant or persons under his direction or control does not constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability. In such case, the tenant must remedy the condition or reimburse the landlord for the reasonable cost of repair. (Real Property Law §235-b)

If a landlord breaches the warranty, the tenant may sue for a rent reduction. The tenant may also withhold rent, but in response, the landlord may sue the tenant for nonpayment of rent. In such case, the tenant may countersue for breach of the warranty.

Rent reductions may be ordered if a court finds that the landlord violated the warranty of habitability. The reduction is computed by subtracting from the actual rent the estimated value of the apartment without the essential services.

A landlord's liability for damages is limited when the failure to provide services is the result of a union-wide building workers' strike. However, a court may award damages to a tenant equal to a share of the landlord's net savings because of the strike. Landlords will be liable for lack of services caused by the strike when they have not made good faith attempt, where practicable, to provide services.

Window Guards

Landlords of multiple dwellings in New York City must install government approved window guards in each window in any apartment where a child ten years old or younger lives. Tenants are required to have such guards installed. In other cases, landlords are required to install window guards provided the tenant requests them. Windows giving access to fire escapes are excluded. Protective guards must also be installed on windows of all public hallways. Landlords must give tenants an annual notice about rights to window guards and must provide this information in a lease rider. Rent controlled and stabilized tenants may be charged for these guards. (NYC Health Code §131.15)

This booklet was written by Stephen Mindell, Assistant Attorney General, under the supervision of Shirley F. Sarna, Assistant Attorney General in Charge, Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau. (Revised April, 1996).



The entire rent regulatory system is administered by the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, Office of Rent Administration. Their offices are listed below;

Central Offices

Gertz Plaza
92-31 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, New York 11433
(718) 739-6400

119 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 11210
(518) 432-0596

District Rent Offices

Lower Manhattan
156 William Street - 9th Fl.
New York, New York 10038
(212) 240-6032
(South side of 110th Street and below)

Upper Manhattan
State Office Building
163 West 125th Street-5th Fl.
New York, NY 10027
(North side of 110th Street and below)

One Fordham Plaza-Suite 210
Bronx, NY 10458
(718) 563-5678

55 Hanson Place-7th Fl.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 722-4778

92-31 Union Hall Street
Jamaica, New York 11433
(718) 739-6400

Staten Island
60 Bay Street - 7th Floor
Staten Island, New York 10301
(718) 816-0278

Nassau County
50 Clinton Street
6th Fl.- Room 605
Hempstead, NY 11550
(516) 481-9494

Westchester County
55 Church Street-3rd Fl.
White Plains, NY 10601
(914) 948-4434

Ellicott Square Bldg.
295 Main Street, Rm 446
Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 847-3552

Hampton Plaza
38-40 State Street
Albany, NY 12207

Rent Hotline
Rent Stabilization & Rent Control
(718) 739-6400

Harassment Unit
156 William Street
New York, NY 10038

Rockland County
94-96 North Main Street
Spring Valley, NY 10977
(914) 425-6575

P.O. Box 1127
Syracuse, New York 13201-1127



The Capitol
Albany, New York 12224 (518) 474-5481

120 Broadway
New York, NY 10271 (212) 416-8345


44 Hawley Street, 17 FL
Binghamton, New York 13901-4433
(607) 721-8771

234 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, New York 12601
(914) 485-3920

65 Court Street
Buffalo, New York 14202
(716) 847-7184

144 Exchange Boulevard
Rochester, New York 14614
(716) 546-7430

300 Motor Parkway
Hauppauge, New York 11788
(516) 231-2401

615 Erie Boulevard West
Syracuse, New York 13204
(315) 448-4848

211 Station Road, 6th Fl.
Mineola, New York 11501
(516) 248-3300

207 Greene Street, Rm. 508
Utica, New York 13501
(315) 793-2444

Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
State Office Building
163 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10027
(212) 961-4475

317 Washington Street
Watertown, New York 13601
(315) 785-2225

70 Clinton Street
Plattsburgh, New York 12901
(518) 562-3282

19 Court Street, Suite 200
White Plains, New York, 10601
(914) 997-6230

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