In the now-classic joke about how to spot a good apartment building in New York City, D.L. Hughley quips: “A good building, you got a doorman. A bad building, you just got a man in a door.”
The moral? When you move to New York City, look for a doorman.
That said, you want to know something about what you're actually entitled to. So, we took a look at questions people ask most about their rights in New York City. Here’s what we got for you, Q an A style.
First question. After I sign a lease, can there be surprises? Can my rental property change the terms later?
Fuggetaboutit! Your lease terms are what they are, through the duration of the lease unless you and the property owner both agree to any changes.
So, do read the lease. If some of the terms seem problematic, see if you can get a revised agreement. If not, shop around until you find the property with rules you can live with.
Now, what does a legit NYC apartment have to provide for the resident?
The basics. Lights and elevator access. A working smoke and carbon monoxide detector for each bedroom. Your interior should also have (lead-free) paint or wall covering, natural sunlight, and safety guards for windows.
Apartment properties have to be clean, safe, and well maintained. Heat is mandatory, October through May. Hot and cold faucet water is mandatory.
Now, believe it or not, kitchen appliances are not mandatory items. Nor is AC. Double-check and make sure any AC unit and whatever you see in the kitchen is what you’ll get.
I value my privacy. Can the property manager send someone into my apartment?
Usually not. In New York City, you have the right to privacy, except for:
- Emergency repairs. If it’s an emergency, the property manager can—and should—send someone over without tracking you down.
- Apartment inspections or showings to prospective renters. The rule is written notice, 24 hours in advance.
- Non-emergency repairs. But the property needs to give you a written notice at least a week before entering.
A property can’t change the locks or evict anyone without a warrant of eviction.
Speaking of repairs, who pays for those?
If something goes on the fritz, the property management, under New York law, does not need to reimburse you.
Clearly, a property management company keen on excellent maintenance is good to have.
What if the place isn’t ready for me to move in when promised?
If the space is not move-in ready at the start date in the lease, the resident owes no rent before being allowed to move in. Of course, that doesn’t get you a roof over your head. Choose your property wisely, because having to use this protection would be cold comfort.
If you can find another option, you’re allowed by law to cancel the lease with written notice, and get your deposits and any prepaid rent back.
Can a prejudiced property manager refuse to rent to me?
No way! Discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, country of birth, age, health or disability, family status, lawful source of income or public benefits, or immigration status is not allowed.
Plus, you’re entitled to reasonable accessibility accommodations, so you can enjoy the building and its amenities.
If you ever feel you are subjected to unlawful treatment, you may contact the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development or report an issue to the state Attorney General.
I have an opportunity elsewhere and need some time away. Can I sublet my NYC space while I'm not living there?
Yes, in buildings with four or more apartments, sublets are OK. You do need the property’s written permission, yet the property cannot say “no” unreasonably.
Keep in mind that you, as original party to the lease agreement, are still legally responsible if things get broken or the rent doesn't get paid.
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