State law protects the rights of tenants in New York to live in a safe, healthy environment. Landlords have an obligation to provide a sanitary and safe apartment even when this provision is not specifically stated in the lease, a concept called “warrant of habitability.” This concept applies to both your individual unit and to public spaces in an apartment building, but not to uninhabitable conditions for which you are at fault. You may have legal recourse if your landlord refuses to make needed repairs.
Follow these steps to take action when your rental home become uninhabitable:
Deducting repair costs from rent
You can choose to make the required repairs and deduct repair costs from your rent. Provide a copy of the receipts along with your rent, and save written communication with your landlord about the issue you fixed.
Vacating the unit
If the apartment becomes damaged by flood or fire, you can leave the unit and cancel your lease as long as this contract does not state otherwise. Your landlord must return prepaid rent, and you are not liable for the remaining rental payments.
Suing for rent reduction
If you have provided notice of the issues with your apartment and your landlord does not respond, you can sue to request a rent reduction. In this case, the court may award you the difference between your rent and the market value of the apartment in its actual current condition.
Tenants have the right to sue when they suffer an injury because of landlord negligence. Leases that include a provision negating this right to sue are not legally valid. Some of the conditions that landlords are legally required to fix include pests; garbage; HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems; and appliances included in the lease. They are also responsible for removing lead paint, installing self-locking doors, and maintaining working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. They must also provide reasonable security against intrusion.