Tenant Rights

December 17, 2015

Landlords of multi-family non owner occupied buildings may not discriminate against, any person or group of persons because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, marital status or familial status. In New York City, tenants are further protected against discrimination with respect to lawful occupation, sexual orientation, partnership status and immigration status.

Rental apartments must have working appliances, heat and hot water, uninterrupted tenancy, rodent/pest-free environment, window guards, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Tenant should note that security deposits typically cannot be applied to pay the last month’s rent. Any additional agreements or approvals may be negotiated in advance, and a rider frequently is included to accommodate those items for both tenant and landlord. Not only should the tenant be aware of his or her rights, but they should know what rights of the landlord as well.

Leases do not have an “escape hatch” and cannot be broken.  If you are faced with extraordinary circumstances speak to your landlord to see if they would be willing to let you out of the lease.  Sometimes landlords will allow it under the condition that you, or a hired  real estate broker, find a suitable replacement tenant. Depending upon whether your apartment is currently worth more in the market than you are currently paying, the landlord may be more forgiving about breaking a lease. It’s always on a case-by-case basis.  However, a tenant should know that if a replacement cannot be found, or if the landlord refuses to excuse you, you are liable for the remaining payments of the lease term.

Leases are generally standard in New York City, and the REBNY (Real Estate Board of New York) lease is designed to protect the interests of all parties.  The tenant should always read through a lease and the lease rider. Familiarize yourself with the expectations and requirements.  Tenants should know that many leases require a renters insurance policy and for the sake of your own personal items it’s a good thing (and relatively inexpensive) to acquire. Know the building rules for regulations regarding smoking policy, pet policy (e.g., weight restrictions, or even board interviews for pets!!!) and quiet living (e.g., Tenants required to cover 80% of the floor surface with carpets).