Tenants in New York City number 3,469,240, according to a New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey taken in 2018. This number increased by 69,000 from a similar survey taken in 2014. Rental apartments in NYC make up 63 percent of the city's total housing. Many of these rental properties are rent-regulated.
Vacancy rates were recently reported to be at 3.63 percent, approximately 79,000 units. The national vacancy rates, in comparison, is 6.9 percent.
Fortunately, NYC tenants have numerous rights that relate to the safety and quality of their housing, such as well-maintained buildings; safe conditions, and freedom from vermin. The New York City Housing and Preservation Development explains what they call the ABCs of Housing. All the elements that lead to living a comfortable life are in these policies and laws. But what does a tenant do if instead of a landlord, they have a slumlord?
Slumlords in New York City
What types of misconduct are proffered by landlords in the city who are "out for themselves only"? Here are a few examples:
- Not ensuring that tenants have heat in the winter months
- Cockroach infestations
- Not knowing who your landlord is or what additional buildings he or she might own
- Not knowing a landlord's history concerning deregulating apartments, evictions, and correcting violations on his or her properties
- Refusing to make repairs
- Peeling paint in an apartment with kids under 6-years-old
- Ignoring a request for window guards
- Not repainting the apartments every three years
- Changing the locks on your residence without telling you
- Unavailability of hot water
- Landlords who are delinquent in paying utility bills
- Not providing a peephole in the entrance of each apartment
- Exhibiting harassment toward a tenant, and more
Types of Harassment Exhibited by Landlords
There are times when landlords have used harassment intentionally. Often, the harassment aims at getting the tenant to move out of the apartment. Some types of this category of harassment include:
Apartment Condition Harassment
- Apartment maintenance complaints
- Building water complaints
- Power outages
- Electrical problems
- Mold complaints
- Heat complaints in a residential building
- Hot water complaints in a residential dwellings
Building Construction Harassment
- Building construction complaint
- Gas piping and hook up issues
- Construction demolition complaint
- Elevator or escalator complaint
- Electrical outages
By downloading the Attorney General's Tenant Harassment Complaint Form, you can file tenant harassment citings at the New York State Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection Unit.
Reporting a Bad Landlord
If you have an issue against your landlord, it is best to contact him or her first, before doing anything else. If the landlord is unresponsive, here are the steps to filing a complaint:
1. Call 311 or TTY (212) 504-4115
3. Once registered, you will receive a Service Request number through 311ONLINE, 311MOBILE (if that is where you filed your complaint), or from HPDONLINE
4. Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will send an inspector.
5. Your landlord will have to certify that he or she has corrected the violation.
6. If you live in a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled home, you can file reduction of servicespapers with the NYC Division of Housing and Community Renewal.
7. Worst-case scenario, you may have to take your landlord to court. This step gets a bit more complicated. You need to know that NYC has three categories of violations:
- Class A - a non-hazardous condition (minor leak, small area of paint peeling with no kids involved under the age of 6, etc.)
- Class B - a hazardous violation ( no self-closing door to the building, the presence of vermin, etc.)
- Class C - a dangerous condition that needs immediate intervention (lack of heat, no hot water, rodents, etc.)
The Housing Maintenance Code will, in almost every case, assist you in classifying your problem.
8. Make a complete list of everything so inspectors will be aware of all the complaints. Typically, a lawyer will not be necessary.
The multifamily Housing Complaint Line, provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is for the use of anyone living in the United States. Bad landlords are often fined or barred from doing business with the federal government. The Department also offers renters information such as:
- How to file a fair housing complaint involving discrimination
- How to report a landlord who is not providing safe and decent federal housing for the poor
- How to report fraud, waste, and abuse in HUD programs and operations by using the HUD Inspector General Hotline
Under the state, federal, and local law, property owners and their representatives may not deny renters or leasers housing based on their:
- National origin
- Gender identity
- Marital status
- Partnership status
- Citizenship status
- Legal occupation
- Lawful source of income
Additionally, tenants cannot be denied housing if they have children. Tenants can receive information through, Fair Housing NYC, concerning the protected classes under the City Human Rights Law. To file your housing discrimination citing, contact the Law Enforcement Bureau of the NYC Commission on Human Rights (CHR) at 22 Reade Street, New York, New York 10007, in lower Manhatten. Services are free of charge. Your complaint will be reviewed by a fair housing specialist to ensure the alleged actions do not violate the Fair Housing Act. If the issue violates the law, a specialist will assist you in filing an official housing discrimination complaint. For an appointment call 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK, or (212) 306-7450).
Advocacy Organizations for Tenants in NYC
Because of the number of tenants who currently make their homes in NYC, the number of advocacy organizations in place to assist these residents are many. They include:
The Legal Aid Society, NYC
LAS exists to ensure that New Yorkers are not denied the right to equal justice simply because they have little income. Their civil, criminal, and juvenile rights practices offer legal expertise to vulnerable New Yorkers in more than 300,000 legal matters or cases annually. (212) 577-3300
Make the Road New York
This organization provides attorneys for education, representation in housing court, and for landlord-tenant situations.
Bushwick, Brooklyn (718) 418-7690
Jackson Heights, Queens (718) 565-8500
Port Richmond, Staten Island (718) 727-1222
Met Council on Housing
This nonprofit offers free tenant clinics and tenant rights hotline. (212) 979-0611
New York Communities for Change
This advocacy organization uses on-street organizing and legislative advocacy to preserve and expand affordable housing. (347) 410-6919 ext. 270
Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition
Develops and guides tenant associations, offers workshops on housing rights and supports active housing committee members who participate in more extensive activities citywide. (718) 584-0515
Pratt Area Community Council
Administers personal counseling, tenants' rights workshops, legal clinic, and assistance to buildings wanting to create or strengthen tenant associations. (718) 522-2613
Tenants & Neighbors
This group offers tenants information, referrals, educational resources, training workshops,organizing support, leadership development, and campaign coordination support. (718) 608-4320 ext. 314
Forms for Residential Tenants
NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal - This form contains details on filing a harassment complaint or applying for a rent reduction based on outstanding housing violations. (Forms for Residential Tenants)
Additional Sources for Help
A new crop of coders has taken on notoriously bad landlords in a technological manner. The goal is to create "civic technology" that offer low-cost solutions to some of NYC's ability to procure affordable housing. Some of their new developments include:
Heat Seek -This app works at harnessing the power of technology to keep New York tenants warm. It provides reliable, accurate, and open information to make the world better. Tenants receive affordable sensors to moderate the temperatures in their homes. The program also allows landlords to save money. This real-time heating data can verify complaints of violations of heating codes in courts or other legal proceedings.
The Displacement Alert Project - This program gives tenants a monthly list of rent-stabilized buildings marketed at speculative prices. It also offers monthly reports on harassment and displacement in rent-stabilized buildings and more.
JustFix, NYC - This app, Brooklyn-based tenant advocacy nonprofit, to assist tenants in obtaining the information they need to deal with less than excellent landlords. The technology helps you get repairs done in your apartment; assists you in finding who owns your building, and even supports you in responding to an eviction notice.
Our company offers an easy-to-use rental property management software for landlords and property managers nationwide. We specialize in tenant screening by offering landlords advanced tools that allow him or her to analyze renters' credit reports, criminal backgrounds, and eviction history. Recently, we have added features for renters, as well. These new features include:
- Assisting tenants in paying their rent online
- Allowing renters to submit maintenance requests
- Helping tenants find roommates across the country
- Making sure your credit score is not affected when applying for rental properties
We also offer educational insights for landlords and tenants alike. It is our goal to ensure that both landlords and renters get a fair shake; enjoy nicely maintained rental venues, and stay informed.
About the author
Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America.