CTRC Fact Sheet Index

TenantNet note: These Fact Sheets were published by CTRC in the mid-1990's. Some information will be out-of-date. As far as we know, there have been no updates to these fact sheets. While much of the information may still be valid, the reader should exercise caution.

CTRC Fact Sheets -- reproduced with permission.
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The Community Training Resource Center (CTRC) is a city-wide not-
for-profit organization that champions the rights of modest and
low-income tenants and promotes the preservation, improvement,
and expansion of affordable housing. CTRC provides training and
technical assistance for neighborhood housing groups, community
based organizations, legislative staffs and social service
providers.

CTRC produces fact sheets on tenants' rights, develops and
publishes research reports, and provides a written guide to New
York City government processes. CTRC advocates on budget policies
that affect housing and related services in low-income
neighborhoods. CTRC has led the campaign for the improvement and
expansion of the city's Housing Maintenance Code inspection and
enforcement services.
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CTRC Fact Sheet #001

STATUTORY RIGHTS OF TENANTS

The following is a brief compilation of the basic rights of
tenants in New York State as granted by Legislative Statute
(laws). They are set forth in condensed language suggesting their
scope and contents. The actual laws should be consulted for any
comprehensive understanding.

This outline is not offered as a substitute for seeking legal
advice. Also, it does not include any information about the "Rent
Control" and "Rent Stabilization" regulatory systems that operate
in New York City and other counties and municipalities of New
York State. These additional rent regulatory protections are
explained in separate fact sheets and may be obtained from the
Community Training and Resource Center, 47 Ann Street New York,
NY 10038.

Abbreviations are:

T=Tenant
LL=Landlord
RPL=Real Property Law
RPAPL=Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law
MDL=Multiple Dwelling Law (applies to NYC and Buffalo only)
MRL=Multiple Residence Law (all municipalities except NYC and Buffalo)
GOL=General Obligations Law
PSL=Public Service Law.


RIGHT TO HABITABLE PREMISES

1.   Warranty of Habitability
     RPL Sec. 235-b

     LL in every written or oral residential lease warrants that
     the premises and common areas are and will be maintained in
     a condition that is (a) fit for human habitation (b) fit for
     uses reasonably intended by the parties (c) free from
     conditions endangering or detrimental to life, health, or
     safety of occupants. T cannot waive or modify this right. T
     can prove damages for breach without expert testimony.
     Damages caused by strike are only recoverable in the amount
     of the LL's saving, unless strike caused by LL. (See our
     fact sheet, Warranty of Habitability.)

2.   Right to Repairs and Clean Premises
     MRL Sec. 174
     MDL Sec. 78,80

     LL shall keep all and every part of a multiple dwelling
     (three or more residential units) and the lot it is on in
     good repair, clean and free from vermin, rodents, dirt,
     filth, garbage or other matter dangerous to life or health.
     T also liable if T or T's guests willfully or negligently
     cause violation. (See our NYC fact sheet, Code Enforcement.)

3.   Right to Hot Water
     MDL Sec. 75

     Where hot water is supplied by LL, hot water must be
     supplied 24 hours a day, year around, unless LL can prove
     that building was erected prior to April 18, 1929 and hot
     water was not furnished or required at time of construction.
     (See our NYC fact sheet, Heat & Hot Water Complaints.)

4.   Right to Heat or Heating Equipment/Facilities
     MDL Sec. 79
     MRL Sec. 173

     Where heat or heating equipment is supplied, such shall be
     sufficient to maintain, and shall maintain, indoor
     temperature of 68F when outdoor is below 55F between hours
     of 6am and 10pm, and indoor temperature of at least 55F
     between hours of 10pm and 6am when outdoor is below 40F,
     all during the months from 10-1 through 5-31. (See our NYC
     fact sheet, Heat & Hot Water Complaints.)

5.   Right to Stay Nonpayment Proceedings Upon Failure to
     Make Repairs
     RPAPL Sec. 755

     If LL ordered to remove violation or make repairs by
     government agency and court believes cited conditions either
     constructively evict T from portion of premises or are
     likely to endanger life, health, or safety, court may stay
     nonpayment proceeding if T deposits rent in court. Court has
     discretion to release deposited rent to effect necessary
     repairs if T shows LL not doing so. (See our NYC fact
     sheets, Code Enforcement and A Housing Court Overview.)

6.   Right of Department of Social Services to Withhold Rent and
     Tenant's Defense in Nonpayment Proceeding
     Social Service Law Sec. 143-b

     Department of Social Services has right to withhold rent
     allowance where violations exist which are dangerous or
     detrimental to life or health. T has valid defense in
     nonpayment proceeding and LL not entitled to possession or
     money judgment for any period during which violations
     existed if such violations were reported to DSS by housing
     department. LL has burden to prove violations corrected. DSS
     not prevented from issuing withheld rent upon proof
     violations corrected.

7.   Right to Rent Abatement Where Serious Violations Exist
     MDL Sec. 302-a
     MRL Sec. 305-a

     Where rent impairing violation (condition designated by
     state building code council or local codes which constitutes
     fire hazard or serious threat to T's life, health or safety)
     remains uncorrected for six months after multiple dwelling
     cited for such violation, LL not entitled to rent for any
     period after the six months that the violation continues. If
     LL brings nonpayment proceeding T must deposit rent in court
     and upon proving above T entitled to return of deposited
     rent. If T raises defense in bad faith, caused violation or
     refused LL entry to correct, court has discretion to award
     LL maximum of $100 for costs and attorney's fees.

8.   Right to Smoke Detector
     MDL Sec. 68
     MRL Sec. 15

     All multiple dwellings, whenever constructed, shall have in
     each unit (or in hotels and SROs, in each room for
     sleeping), functioning smoke detector that meets fire code
     requirements and that T can check for operation. Once T
     occupies a unit, care and maintenance of smoke detector
     becomes T's responsibility, including replacement, except
     where detector becomes inoperable within one year after
     installation due to no fault of T.


RIGHT TO COMPLAIN AND ORGANIZE

9.   Retaliatory Eviction
     RPL Sec. 223-b

     No LL of residential premises (unless owner-occupied with
     less than four units) shall (a) serve a notice to quit, (b)
     commence a proceeding to recover possession, or
     substantially alter terms of tenancy (includes refusal to
     renew lease or offer new lease, but if T wins, LL need only
     offer 1-year renewal or new lease) in retaliation of (a) T's
     good faith complaint to governmental authorities regarding
     LL's violations of health or safety law, (b) T's actions to
     secure or enforce rights under lease, rental agreement,
     warranty of habitability, or other state or federal laws
     regulating residential premises, (c) T's participation in
     tenant's organization. Retaliatory eviction is a successful
     affirmative defense in eviction proceeding if court finds LL
     acting in retaliation for the specified T activities and
     further finds that LL would not otherwise have commenced
     eviction. T can sue LL but no rebuttable presumption. If LL
     sues T within six months of T's official complaint or suit,
     there is rebuttable presumption that LL is retaliating and
     LL has burden of providing credible explanation of non-
     retaliatory motive. (See our fact sheet, How to Use the NYS
     Anti-Retaliatory Eviction Law.)

10.  Right to Form, Join, or Participate in Tenant's Group
     RPL Sec. 230

     LL cannot interfere with the right to T to form, join, or
     participate in any group formed to protect rights of
     tenants, nor harass or punish T or withhold any right from T
     for exercising this right. T's group has right to meet on
     premises in areas devoted to common use. (See our fact
     sheet, Organizing an Effective Tenant Association.)


RIGHT TO CONTINUED POSSESSION

11.  Right to Possession at Beginning of Tenancy
     RPL Sec. 223-a

     Absent express provision to the contrary, LL promises to
     deliver possession at the beginning of tenancy. If LL does
     not, T has the option to rescind lease and recover money
     paid to LL. (See our NYC fact sheet, Lease and Lease Renewal
     Rights Under Rent Regulation)

12.  Right to Quiet Enjoyment
     RPL Sec. 235

     LL or his agent cannot willfully and intentionally interfere
     with T's quiet enjoyment (a/k/a peaceful possession) of
     premises. Penalty: criminal violation.

13.  Right of Illegally Locked-out Tenant to Bring Proceeding to
     Regain Possession
     RPAPL Sec. 713(10),721

     A summary proceeding to recover possession of real property
     may be brought if LL enters premises or remains in
     possession by force or by unlawful means. The proceeding may
     be brought by the person forcibly or unlawfully put out or
     kept out, by approved tenant associations, and by not-for-
     profit corporations. (See our NYC fact sheet, The Rights of
     Tenants Under the Unlawful Eviction Law, re the NYC version
     of this law.)

14.  Possible Right to Triple Damages for Landlord's Lockout
     RPAPL Sec. 853

     If T is ejected or put out in a forcible manner or after T
     put out is kept out by force, T may be able to recover
     treble damages from LL. (Lower courts split on whether
     triple damages available; some courts interpret force to
     mean "physical means" rather than "physical force.")

15.  Right of Monthly Tenant to Timely and Adequate Notice
     Terminating Tenancy
     RPL Sec. 232-a,b

     NYC: 30 days before expiration of term. OUTSIDE NYC: One
     month before expiration of term. (Note: LL's acceptance of
     rent for period after termination and prior to commencement
     of hold-over summary proceeding voids termination notice.)

16.  Right to Avoid Eviction in Nonpayment Proceeding
     RPAPL Sec. 751(1)

     T in a nonpayment proceeding, at any time before a warrant
     of eviction is issued, may stay the issuance of a warrant of
     eviction by depositing the rent due and the costs of the
     proceeding in court. (This is an absolute right.)


RIGHT TO UNINTERRUPTED SERVICES

17.  Right to Continuation of Services Provided Under Rental
     Agreement
     RPL Sec. 235

     LL cannot willfully or intentionally fail to provide
     services required, expressed or implied, in the rental
     agreement (e.g., hot or cold water, heat, lights, elevator,
     etc.). Penalty: criminal violation.

18.  Right to Pay Utility Company and Deduct from Rent
     RPL Sec. 235-a/
     PSL Sec. 116

     In a multiple dwelling, where LL is required to furnish
     utilities but is not paying bills, T can pay utility company
     pursuant to Public Services Law Sec. 116. Such payments are
     deductible from future rent payments. LL of a multiple
     dwelling who is responsible for payment of gas, electric,
     water services and whose failure to pay causes
     discontinuance of such service is liable for compensatory
     and punitive damages.

19.  Right to Stay Nonpayment Proceeding Upon Failure to Provide
     Utilities
     RPAPL Sec. 756

     Where LL is responsible for providing utilities which are
     discontinued because of failure to pay, T is entitled to
     stay of nonpayment proceeding until LL pays the amount owing
     for utilities and until such utility services are restored.

20.  Right to Contract and Pay for Heating Oil Delivery and
     Deduct from Rent
     MDL Sec. 302-c/
     MRL Sec. 305-c

     T in a multiple dwelling, where LL furnishes heating oil and
     there is lack of heat due to LL's failure to have oil
     supplied, may contract and pay for oil delivery and deduct
     such payments from rent. T must make reasonable effort to
     contact LL regarding failure to supply and have usual oil
     supplier deliver if LL posts supplier's name on premises or,
     if not, secure oil from supplier regularly engaged in such
     business. T's remedy under section not exclusive and T may
     also pursue other remedies or claims for LL's failure to
     provide heat. (See our NYC fact sheet, How To Use the
     Emergency Repair Program.)


RIGHTS LIMITING CONTINUATION OF TENANT'S LIABILITY

21.  Right to Surrender Premises
     RPL Sec. 227

     Absent express written agreement to contrary, T has the
     right to surrender possession if premises destroyed or
     become untenable and unfit for occupancy without any fault
     of T.

22.  Right to Assign or Sublease
     RPL Sec. 226-b

     In a dwelling of four or more residential units, T may not
     assign lease without consent of LL, who may unconditionally
     refuse, but then must release T from lease if so requested.
     T has right to sublet subject to consent of LL who cannot
     unreasonably refuse. If LL unreasonably refuses, T can
     sublet. If LL consents original T still liable to LL for
     lease obligations.

23.  Right to Notice of Automatic Lease Renewal
     GOL Sec. 5-905

     Lease provision that lease is automatically renewed unless T
     gives notice to LL of intention to vacate is not enforceable
     unless LL gives T written notice, served personally or by
     registered or certified mail at least 15 days and not more
     that 30 days prior to the time T must notify LL of intention
     to vacate.

24.  Holdover Without Creation of a New Term
     RPL Sec. 232-c

     If a T whose term is longer that one month holds over, LL
     does not have automatic right to hold T for a new term. If
     LL accepts rent, absent contrary express or implied
     agreement, T is deemed a month-to-month tenant.

25.  Right to Exemption of Personal Property to Secure Rent
     RPL Sec. 231(4)

     Any residential rental agreement which pledges personal
     property exempt by law for satisfying a money judgment (CPLR
     Sec. 5205) to secure the payment of rent is void.


RIGHTS LIMITING LANDLORD'S ADVANTAGE

26.  Rights Regarding Security Deposit
     GOL Sec. 7-103/
     GOL Sec. 7-105

     Security deposit is property of T until LL applies it for T
     breach. LL cannot commingle deposit with personal funds. if
     LL deposits it in bank, he must advise T in writing of name
     and location of bank, which must have a place of business
     within the state, and if deposit is in interest-bearing
     account T is entitled to interest minus 1% LL can retain for
     administration expenses. If building has six or more units,
     LL must deposit it in interest-bearing account. T cannot
     waive security deposit rights. Within five days of LL's sale
     of building, assignment of lease, or appointment of
     receiver, LL must turn over deposit to successor in interest
     and advise T by registered or certified mail of this action
     and name and address of successor. Failure to comply with
     requirements on transfer of LL's interest is a misdemeanor.
     (See our fact sheet, Security Deposits.)

27.  Right to a Landlord Accountable for Negligence
     GOL Sec. 5-321

     LL cannot exempt himself, his agents or employees from
     liability for injuries to person or property caused by or
     resulting from negligence in the operation or maintenance of
     the premises. Any agreement to do so is void.

28.  Preserve Right to Jury Trial
     RPL Sec. 259-c

     Lease provision waiving right to jury trial in any action or
     counterclaim for personal injury or property damage brought
     by LL or T is void.

29.  Right to Additional Occupants (Roommate Law)
     RPL Sec. 235-f

     LL cannot restrict occupancy to T and members of T's
     immediate family. Where not prohibited by federal, state, or
     local law, T can cohabit with family members, another
     occupant and that occupant's dependent children. (See para.
     22 above.)

30.  Right to Nondiscriminatory Landlord
     Executive Law Sec. 296(5)(a)

     LL (unless one or two units and LL or LL's family occupy)
     engages in unlawful discriminatory practice by refusing to
     rent or discriminating in rental conditions, provision of
     services or facilities because of, or by advertising or
     inquiring as to, T's race, creed, color, national origin,
     sex, disability or marital status. Buildings or mobile home
     parks for persons older than 55 are exempt. (See our NYC
     fact sheet, Fighting Land lord Discrimination and
     Harassment)

31.  Right to Nondiscriminatory Rental Agreement
     GOL Sec. 5-331

     Restrictions in contracts, leases, agreements affecting real
     property which in any way provide against the sale, gift,
     transfer, assignment, lease, rental, use or occupancy of
     real property to any person because of race, creed, color,
     national origin, or ancestry are void.

32.  Right to Nondiscrimination for Tenants With Children
     RPL Sec. 236,23

     LL who refuses to rent any or part of any residential
     premises (except units for senior citizens subsidized,
     insured or guaranteed by federal government) solely on
     ground prospective T has children guilty of misdemeanor.
     Penalty: $50 minimum and $100 maximum fine for each offense.
     Owner-occupied, one- or two-family dwellings and trailer
     parks for persons 55 or over are exempt. LL who provides
     lease clause that during lease term T's shall not have
     children guilty of criminal violation.

33.  Right to Energy Information ("Truth-in-Heating")
     Energy Law Sec. 17-103

     Where T will be responsible for paying own heating and/or
     cooling bills, effective 1-1-81, LL, upon prospective T's
     request, must provide free of charge complete set or summary
     of such bills for preceding two years and must indicate
     whether premises occupied during that time. Maximum penalty
     for LL's failure to provide $100. T cannot use LL's failure
     to avoid any lease obligations. Prior Ts' names can only be
     given with consent, and only information concerning bill
     amounts and fuel usage can be given by vendor; no consumer
     credit information can be divulged.

34.  Right to "Fair" Lease
     RPL Sec. 235-c

     If a court finds a lease or any clause of lease
     unconscionable at time made, court may refuse to enforce
     lease, enforce the lease without the unconscionable clause,
     or limit clause to avoid unconscionable result.

35.  Right to Plain Language Lease
     GOL Sec. 5-702

     All written leases after 11-1-78 shall be written in clear,
     coherent manner using common words with everyday meaning.
     Violations do not render agreements void or voidable, or
     create defenses to enforcement or breaches. Violations are
     punishable by fines equal to actual damages plus $50. Class
     action penalty shall not exceed $10,000.

36.  Right to Recover Attorneys' Fees
     RPL Sec. 234

     If residential lease provides that LL may recover attorneys'
     fees and/or expenses incurred for any action or proceeding
     arising out of lease, T entitled to recover reasonable
     attorneys' fees and/or expenses if T successfully defends or
     prosecutes any action arising out of lease.

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These article are Copyright 1995 and 1996 by Community Training Resource
Center (CTRC) and reproduced by TenantNet. They may be freely
redistributed in their entirety provided they are reproduced exactly
as in the originals, including this copyright notice, the opening and
closing informational banners and any references to either CTRC
or TenantNet must be included.

These article are provided as is without any express or implied
warranty. While any information in these article is believed to be
correct at the time of writing, these articles are for educational
purposes only and do not purport to provide legal advice. If
you require legal advice, you should consult with a legal
practitioner licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

Community Training Resource Center                (212)964-7200
47 Ann Street
New York, NY 10038

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