New York Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating systems, appliances that landlords provide must be in good working order. (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within a “reasonable time” after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant can withhold rent, repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official, or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under New York law. (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in New York does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling TypeLandlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single familyNo
Multi-familyYes
Fraternities/Sororities/ClubsYes
RV parksNot addressed
Mobile home parksNo
CondosNo
Hotels/MotelsNo

New laws were passed, effective June 2019, which greatly increase renters’ rights in New York State. We incorporate the relevant updates into this article.

Most laws at the State level apply to multi-family units only. Residents or landlords of single family dwellings will need to check with their local governments to determine what additional requirements they may have.

For all multi-family rental properties, landlords are required to ensure the property complies with any and all building codes and housing codes as they relate to the safety of the building and/or the health of the residents.

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in New York, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability IssueLandlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.Not addressed
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.Multi-family units
Provide hot and cold running water.Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment.Multi-family units (AC not required)
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting.Multi-family units
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cookingNot addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).Multi-family units
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).Multi-family units
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.Multi-family units
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.In the public areas of multi-family units
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean.Multi-family units
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials.Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectorsYes
Provide a mailbox.Yes
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances.No
Provide working carbon monoxide detector.Multi-family units
Provide a working washer/dryer.No

Remember, just because single-family rental properties aren’t addressed at the state level, it doesn’t mean they’re not addressed at the local level. Check with your local government regarding additional landlord/tenant responsibilities.

Lead Paint

Landlords of multi-family units are only required to mitigate lead paint if children aged six or younger reside in the rental unit with lead paint or in one of the rental units of an affected property.

Security (Multi-Family Units Only)

Exterior doors of rental properties with multiple units must lock, and rental properties with at least eight rental units must have a lobby attendant. In addition, any elevators must have mirrors that allow tenants to see if anyone else is already on the elevator.

Further, all stairways, entrances, and yard areas must be well-lit between sunrise and sunset. All rental unit doors must have peepholes and chain-style locks, in addition to any other lock the landlord may provide.

Landlords are also required to install window guards in all units with children under the age of ten.

Rats

All multi-family rental properties built after 1947 must be “rat-proof.”

Mailboxes

Unless the rental agreement states that the landlord (or his or her agent) will distribute mail to each resident of a multi-family rental property, the landlord must provide “secure” mailboxes for each unit.

Making Repairs

If tenants request repairs, and they want to pursue legal action, they must put their request in writing.  Some remedies provided for tenants in New York are only available through court or agency intervention.

  • Sending notice. If the tenant needs repairs within the property, they must notify the landlord and ask when the repairs will be completed. In case of emergency repairs, the tenant must inform the landlord that it is an emergency. Once notified, the landlord must make the necessary repairs within a reasonable time. A reasonable time period depends on the degree of the repairs required.
  • Landlord access. Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants “reasonable” notice unless it’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – New York landlord tenant law permits a tenant to withhold rent until the landlord makes the necessary repairs but only after taking legal action.
  2. Repair and deduct – Tenants also have the right to repair the issue themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair from the following month’s rent.
  3. Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – Landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

Landlords are prohibited from retaliating against tenants who exercise their rights. It is illegal for a landlord to evict tenants solely because tenants:

  • Complaining to a government agency regarding violations of any health or safety laws,
  • Taking legal actions to protect their rights under the lease,
  • Participating in tenant organizations.

In New York, it is considered retaliatory conduct if the landlord attempts to evict the tenant within six months of the date that a tenant has exercised a legal right.

Sources