Everything to know about NYC tenant rights and rental laws


Nov 02 • 7 minute read

Before you start exploring homes for rent in New York, you need to learn about your tenant rights in New York. It’s essential to know what your rental lease should include, what rental laws protect you in NYC, and what you’re entitled to as a renter in NYC.

We’ll break down each of them so you won’t have to worry about a thing before your move. We even end the article with an FAQ section answering the most pressing questions about renter’s rights in NYC.

What are my tenant rights in NYC?

Living in a well-kept, safe, and hygienic house is the fundamental right of tenants in NYC. This means having access to hot water and heat in winter, locks and windows for security, a 24-hour notice before a visit from the landlord, and living in a pest-free environment.

New York rental laws state that your basic tenant rights are as follows:

Right to live in safe conditions

Under NYC’s “Warranty of Habitability”, all tenants should have safe living conditions. The law is applied even if you don’t sign a written lease. Safe living conditions include but aren't limited to:

  • Lack of pests, bed bugs and vermin
  • Working ventilation, heating, and hot water
  • Non-leaking pipes, ceilings, or gas appliances
  • No holes in the walls, ground, ceiling, or broken tiles in the bathroom/toilet
  • Lack of lead-painted walls or mold
  • Windows that can be opened and closed, and their glass is intact
  • Working locks on doors
  • The electrical being grounded and not exposed

According to this law, the landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property meets these conditions and for fixing any conditions that go against the warranty.

The warranty also applies to additional amenities you had agreed upon before signing the contract. So, if you had agreed to have a washing machine, the landlord has to provide one and maintain it throughout the tenancy.

Right to heating and hot water

You have the right to have access to hot water year-round (at 120°F). Heat must always be provided through the “cold season” between October 1st and May 31st. Whereas during "heat season”, your apartment should be heated to at least 68°F from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. when it's below 55°F outside. At night (from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.), it should be kept at a minimum of 62°F.

Right to organize

You have the right to organize a tenants’ association in your building to advocate for your rights as a tenant in NYC.

Right to have a roommate

You have the right to live with a roommate only if you’re the only person on your lease and live in a privately owned building.

Right to privacy

Your landlord can only enter your rental unit with a 24-hour notice in case of inspection and 1 week in case of repairs. Any emergencies that require the landlord's presence are exempted from this rule (e.g., a gas leak).

Harassment and Retaliation

Landlords are prohibited from harassing or retaliating against tenants who assert their rights. For example, suppose you have brought up a maintenance problem to the authorities after your landlord has refused to address it. In that case, the landlord can't evict or intimidate you into ending the lease early.

Right to fair housing

Regardless of your gender identity, ethnicity and nationality, age, faith, level of income, physical limitations, or sexual orientation, you have the right to rent in New York City. The right to fair housing prevents landlords from refusing accommodation based on these and similar external factors.

Tenants with disabilities can ask their landlords to provide reasonable accommodations. This can include modifications to the property or the landlord's property rules to accommodate the tenant, such as installing mobility aids in the house, allowing a service animal in a no-pets rental, or a parking space close to the entrance. The landlord is responsible for covering the costs as long as they are reasonable.

Right to subletting

You can sublet your rental unit with your landlord’s permission. Tenants in a privately owned building with 4+ apartments can sublet for at least 30 days, regardless of what's stated in the contract.

Right to a day in court before eviction

Your landlord must prove their case in a court hearing to evict you. Legal representation is available regardless of your ability to pay for it.

Lease agreement in New York

The tenant rights we outlined above apply to you, even if they aren't included in the rental agreement. But there are a few things you need to ensure are included in the lease agreement, as otherwise, proving responsibilities and rights becomes difficult.

Before signing, make sure that your monthly rent is broken down into base costs and bills (if the utilities are included), the amount of the security deposit, a description of the property and the amenities it comes with, clauses for an early end of the lease, property and building rules, and who is responsible for what repairs.

Keep in mind that once you've signed, changes to the lease agreement can be made only if both parties agree.

Regardless of whether your lease is written or oral, it's valid. We recommend always having a written agreement as it clearly outlines the conditions and terms of your agreement.

Right to a security deposit

In New York City, tenants have to pay 1 month’s rent as a security deposit. After the termination of the lease, the landlord has to return your deposit within 14 days from the end of your contract. If the last day falls on a weekend or public holiday, the deposit can be returned the next business day.

If any repairs are claimed, your landlord must provide a report with all the work and costs involved. Check out our NYC security deposit laws guide to learn more about the process and your rights.

Annual rental increases

Annual rental increases are common regardless of where you're renting. When it comes to renting in NYC, there are 2 types of units: free-market buildings and rent-stabilized units.

Renting in a free-market building

If you’re renting in a free-market building, there isn’t a limit to how much your rent can be increased (usually between 5% and 10%). But it can be increased only when your lease ends. Depending on how long you’ve been renting the place, your landlord has to provide you with a notice. For rental increases over 5%, the notice is either 30 days (less than 1 year), 60 days (between 1-2 years) or 90 days (over 2 years).

Rent increases in rent-regulated units

There are 2 types of rent-regulated units: rent-stabilized and rent-controlled. Most properties in NYC are rent-stabilized. For an apartment to be rent-controlled, the tenant should have moved in before July 1, 1971.

Rent-stabilized units are apartments located in properties:

  • Built between February 1947 and December 1971, which have 6 or more units
  • Built or restored after January 1974, which have 3 or more units.

If you live in a rent-stabilized unitand have a 1-year agreement, your rent can be increased only with 3%. But if you have a 2-year agreement, your rent can be increased by 2.75% in the first year and 3.20% in the second year. These guidelines apply to agreements commenced between October 1, 2023, and September 30, 2024.

Tenant rights during major repairs

During your tenancy, an appliance can break, or your place can get infested with bed bugs. In such situations, it's good to know what repairs the tenant and the landlord are responsible for, how long the landlord has to fix the problem, and whether you should withhold rent until it's fixed.

What repairs is the landlord responsible for in NYC?

Usually, the landlord is responsible only for major repairs. So, the tenant is responsible for small repairs, such as unclogging the drain, changing a lightbulb or draining the washing machine. Here’s a list of the general repairs the landlord has to take care of:

  • Peeling paint (incl. repainting lead-painted walls)
  • Leaks in the ceiling
  • Broken sink, over, or stove
  • Roaches, mice or bedbugs
  • Broken or non-closing windows
  • No heat or hot water

In the case of bedbugs, the landlord must inform you if the property has been infested in the last year.

What to do if your landlord won’t fix something in NYC?

If your landlord has refused to fix the reported issue, you can contact the housing/building inspector (or code enforcement officer). You can call 311 to make an appointment for a housing inspection. Once that’s done, they’ll contact the landlord to discuss and resolve the issue on your behalf.

Can you withhold rent for repairs?

Withholding rent is very risky. New York rental law doesn’t explicitly state that tenants can withhold rent. Only that landlords can’t evict tenants because of unpaid rent, but they can still take you to court.

Our advice is not to withhold rent. If you fix the issue yourself, ask the landlord to deduct only the repair cost from the next rent. Keep receipts for proof.

How long does a landlord have to fix something in NYC?

Depends on the problem. If the issue is “immediately hazardous” (e.g., heating), the landlord has 24 hours to fix it. If the issue is “hazardous” (e.g., leaking ceiling, roaches), the landlord has 30 days. If the issue is “non-hazardous” (e.g., peeling paint), the landlord has 90 days.

Eviction process NYC

Eviction in NYC can occur because

  • the tenant has failed to pay the rent
  • has broken the lease terms
  • the lease has expired.

If the tenant still needs to pay rent, they have 14 days to pay before further action is taken. If this doesn't happen, the landlord can file a complaint with the authorities, and the tenant will receive a court hearing notice. The hearing in court will be set for a date at least 10 days after the mailing of the notice.

The tenant can contest the eviction in court and counterclaim. If they don’t appear in court, they lose by default. In case of a dispute, the tenant and the landlord can request a minimum of 14 additional days before the next hearing.

There can be 3 outcomes of the eviction hearing:

  • The tenant wins the counterclaim, and the court issues a judgment against the landlord. You can continue living in the rental house as a tenant.
  • The landlord can’t prove their case, the court case is dismissed. You can continue living in the house as a tenant.
  • The landlord wins, in which case a warrant ordering the tenant’s eviction is issued. As a tenant, you have 14 days to vacate and find a new place to live. If it’s an issue of not paying rent, the action is dismissed if you can pay the late rent.

This article is for informational purposes only, and you cannot derive any legal rights from this. Please consult the appropriate authorities for the latest developments.

Please reach out to content@housinganywhere.com if you have any suggestions or inquiries about the content on this page.

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