9 Housing Laws That Every NYC Renter Should Know

the openigloo team||6 min read
New York has some of the most robust set of laws to protect renters. The catch? Renters often may not have the time to know the ins and outs of every law and what applies to them. Here are 9 housing laws that every NYC renter should know.

Compared to other states, New York has some of the most robust set of laws to protect renters. Everything from security deposit regulation to lease breaks. The catch? More often than not, renters may not have the time to know the ins and outs of every tenant law and what applies to them. At openigloo, we’ve collected thousands of reviews from NYC renters who are sharing the good, bad, and ugly of renting in our beloved city. In many cases, we’ve read reviews where a renter complains about a landlord practice that is completely illegal, such as entering an apartment without notice or over-charging for late fees.

Here are 9 housing laws that every NYC renter should know.

1. Landlords have 14 days to return your security deposit.

Renters with market-rate apartments should receive their deposits back within 14 days. Landlords have to explain and itemize damages within that 14-day window. If they don't, they have forfeited the deposit back to you. Navigating security deposits in NYC is tough but it’s important to know the laws in place to protect tenants from landlords unjustly keeping deposits. Check out our post about security deposits here.

2. You must be given 30-90 days notice if your landlord is going to raise your rent more than 5% or not renew your lease.

This law applies to market-rate (i.e. non-stabilized) apartments. If a tenant has a lease of less than one year, a 30-day notice is mandatory. A 60-day notice is required for renters who have lived in an apartment for more than one year, but less than two years. Tenants who have lived in a unit for more than two years must get 90 days notice. For rent-stabilized tenants, permitted rent increases are set by the Rent Guidelines Board every year. Landlords HAVE TO renew the leases of rent-stabilized tenants. Not sure if you have a stabilized apartment? Check out our post about rent-stabilization here.

3. No, landlords cannot enter your apartment whenever they want.

Some openigloo users have written about landlords entering an apartment whenever they want claiming “It’s my property, so I can do what I please”. Actually, no. Landlords are not permitted to enter your apartment without appropriate notice except in cases of emergency (i.e. flood, fire, medical emergency). In all other cases, the landlord needs to provide notice to show your apartment to prospective renters or do scheduled repairs.

4. Landlords have to make a reasonable effort to re-rent your apartment if you break your lease.

Sometimes life happens and a renter needs to break a lease. In 2019, there were landmark rent reforms that shifted some responsibility to landlords when it comes to re-renting an apartment after a tenant breaks the lease. Landlords now have what’s called “a duty to mitigate". This means they need to make a reasonable effort to re-rent the apartment rather than simply taking you to court for unpaid rent. Check out our post about breaking a lease in NYC for more info.

5. Buildings with over 9 units, need to have a janitor available 24 hours a day.

You read that right! According to NYC’s housing maintenance code, owners of buildings with 9 or more apartments are required to provide janitorial services, either themselves or by hiring a janitor. These services need to be available 24 hours a day. According to the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, buildings with 13 or more units in a multiple dwelling building where the owner doesn't reside, must have a janitor that resides in the building or within 200 feet of the building.

6. Landlords are required to provide heat and hot water.

Your hot water has to be working 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is also a heating season (October 1 through May 31) where between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., heat must register at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees. Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., heat must register at least 62 degrees Fahrenheit. The city receives tens of thousands of heat complaints every year. You can check your building’s history with heating violations on the openigloo app.

7. You cannot be evicted without a court order.

A tenant can be evicted in New York for several reasons, the most common include failing to pay rent or violating the lease. In order to legally evict a tenant, a landlord must get a judgment from the court allowing the eviction to occur. Before the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit, the landlord MUST give the tenant 14 days notice. COVID-19 has resulted in more eviction protection for renters who are behind on their rent. Regardless of a renter’s situation, it’s important to know that only a city marshal can evict a tenant, not a landlord.

8. Landlords cannot discriminate against you as an applicant or tenant because of your race, religion, sexual orientation, and more.

While the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination, the New York City Human Rights Law goes further to protect even more groups. Specifically, NYC prohibits housing discrimination based on actual or perceived race, creed, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, uniformed service, marital status, partnership status, alienage or citizenship status of any person or group of persons. If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination, you can file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

9. Landlords cannot charge more than $50 for late rent payments.

Late fees can only be charged if rent is received more than five days after the due date established in the lease, and cannot exceed $50 or five percent of the rent, whichever is less. Some leases will include outrageous (and illegal) late fee policies - like $100 per day. Double check your lease and make sure any clauses included about late fees are in accordance with the law!

Renting in NYC is hard. There are so many laws and they are constantly changing. Unfortunately, it’s up to renters to know their rights and make sure these laws are respected. If you have a landlord that has broken any of these laws, you can let them know and give them a chance to remediate, you can file a complaint with 311, or in extreme circumstances take your landlord to court for damages. Whether you’re a seasoned NYC renter, or have just arrived, we hope this list of 9 housing laws can help you navigate your next lease!

Have an experience to share? Submit an anonymous review about your building on the openigloo app, and help a future renter find (or avoid) their next apartment!