NYC Affordable Housing Resource Center
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FAQs

Lotteries
Apartment Rentals
Home Buying
Tenant's Rights and Legal Help
Repairs and Maintenance
Home Improvements



Lotteries

What is a community preference?
The City gives preference for either the sale or rental of 50% of all homes, co-ops, condominiums, and rental apartments it creates or rehabilitates to current residents of the community board district where the homes are located. All applicants must meet the individual program requirements to be eligible and be selected by lottery. The community preference was established to provide greater housing opportunities for long-time residents of New York City neighborhoods where HPD has made a significant investment in housing. Preference is also given to active duty uniformed NYC police officers, people who are mobility-impaired, and people who are vision-impaired.

What is the lottery process?
Apartments that are subsidized by the City, by the New York State Housing Finance Agency, and by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) are advertised in local newspapers. Listings of available apartments may also be found at these Web sites: www.nyc.gov/hpd, www.nychdc.com, and www.dhcr.state.ny.us. Additionally, HPD has an Affordable Housing Hotline that describes available apartments and provides information on obtaining an application. For further information, please call 311 (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing 212-NEW-YORK).

To participate in a lottery, you must complete an application form and mail it to the developer within the specified application period. The newspaper advertisement should provide you with information on (1) income guidelines, (2) who to contact, (3) where to mail your request for an application, and (4) where to mail your completed application. Deadlines for applications will also be noted in the advertisement.

One week after the application deadline, the applications are retrieved and then randomly selected. Based on the relevant information from the application, a list of qualified applicants will be created. The number of names on the list will be at least 20 times the number of apartments available. Interviews with applicants will be scheduled after the drawing. All applicants must meet the individual program requirements to be eligible and receive the community preference. No application fee or broker fee is required. If an applicant passes the interview, the developer may require a fee to conduct a credit check on the applicant.

Do I have to write my social security number and bank account number in applications for housing lotteries?
No, you do not have to include your social security number and bank account number in applications. If you are selected in the lottery, you will be called for an interview. If you are eligible for the apartment, the developer may then request your social security number and bank account number to do a credit check or to verify your income.

Would my application for HPD-sponsored housing be considered if I have bad credit or a bankruptcy?
A private developer has a right to refuse an applicant on the grounds of bad credit or a bankruptcy, according to HPD's marketing guidelines.

What happens after the lottery is completed?
After the drawing, the developer schedules interviews (in numerical order of the log sheet) with prospective homeowners. To make the process more efficient, HPD strongly recommends that the developer interview applicants who meet the various preference requirements (resident of Community Board district where development is located, active duty uniformed NYC police officers, mobility-impaired, vision-impaired) prior to interviewing other applicants. All applicants must meet the individual program requirements to be eligible and receive the community preference. No application fee or broker fee is required. If an applicant passes the interview, the developer may require a fee to conduct a credit check on the applicant

How long does the interview process for renting a City-sponsored apartment or purchasing a City-sponsored home take?
Generally, the interview process is completed within one month after the application deadline. Due to the large volume of applications submitted for each development, only applicants selected for an interview will be called regarding the status of their application.

What does it mean if I don't receive a call requesting an interview?
Applicants will not receive a call for an interview if 1) their application was not drawn before the developer reached the amount that corresponds to 20 times the number of homes/apartments available for sale or rent; 2) they did not meet the eligibility requirements for the program through which the home/apartment was developed, or 3) their application was received after the deadline.

What is the 80/20 Program?
The 80/20 Program, sponsored by the New York State Housing Finance Agency, the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), uses tax-exempt bonds to create affordable housing for low-income tenants in generally desirable locations throughout the City. The use of tax-exempt bonds to finance the construction of large residential buildings in the City greatly reduces costs. In exchange for the low-cost financing, 20% of the apartment units are reserved for low-income tenants earning no more than 50% of area median income. (See Low Income Housing Tax Credit Rent and Income Limits). The apartments are not necessarily labeled "80/20" in advertisements, but would say "affordable housing."

Why do I have to give the developer such detailed information about my finances?
It is important that HDC-financed apartments are rented to tenants that qualify under the program requirements. In order to ensure fairness to all applicants, the owner needs to certify that an applicant's income falls within the income guidelines. All information is confidential and the managing agents handle this information with the utmost discretion. Required information such as bank accounts, assets, and social security numbers are necessary to provide to the managing agent on the application in order to fully review and approve you for an affordable apartment.

How is income calculated?
The managing agents will calculate income using annual gross (pre-tax) income, and also include interest income earned from assets.

Do I have to pay a broker's fee?
Broker's fees are not permitted for HDC-financed low-income apartments. For HDC-financed middle-income apartments, if you apply during the lottery process, you do not have to pay a broker's fee. However, if apartments remain unoccupied after the lottery process, the owner may hire a broker to help rent these apartments. If you apply for the apartment through this broker, you may be required to pay a broker's fee of no more than one-half of one month's rent for the apartment you are renting.

What does it mean to be on the waiting list?
Owners will maintain a waiting list for a particular development so that, if an apartment becomes available, there is a ready list of potential tenants. If an apartment becomes available or the apartments are not all rented during the initial application process, the developer will offer the apartment to applicants on a waiting list. Owners have the discretion to close a waiting list. If you are on a waiting list, the developer may require you to renew your status as an interested applicant by contacting their office every six to twelve months. Your eligibility to rent one of these apartments is determined by your income at the time you are offered the apartment. If your income has increased above the allowable maximum income since you originally applied for the apartment, you are no longer eligible to receive this apartment.

I've been a recent victim of domestic violence. Is there a housing program I can take advantage of?
Applicants who have suffered serious or repeated abuse from a family member or intimate relation may qualify for emergency or transitional housing. Visit NYCHA to learn about requirements and necessary documentation.




Apartment Rentals

What is rent control?
Rent control covers about 50,000 apartments occupied largely by an elderly, low income population who have been in occupancy since July 1, 1971 or by their lawful successors. Apartments under rent control become decontrolled upon vacancy. Rent control limits the rent an owner may charge for an apartment and restricts the right of an owner to evict tenants. It also obligates the owner to provide essential services and equipment.

What is rent stabilization?
Rent stabilized tenants are protected from sharp increases in rent and have the right to renew their leases. The Rent Guidelines Board sets the allowable percentage increase for renewal leases each year.

Can I sublet my apartment?
Illegal subletting is grounds for termination of your lease. Apartments may be sublet to qualified tenants only, with the prior approval of the landlord.

What is SCRIE?
Senior citizen tenants under rent control or rent stabilization may be entitled to an exemption from future rent increases under the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE).
Learn more

Why is it that people in one building pay different rates for the same apartment?
Rent regulations, and the propensity of renters in NYC to stay in one place a long time, tend to make rents end up lower overall for long-term tenants.

I am a low-income person and have fallen behind on my rent. How can I get help?
You may want to try the following groups/programs.

  1. The NYC Department of Homeless Services offers information for those who are having difficulty paying their rent and for people facing eviction.

  2. The Coalition for the Homeless may be able to provide assistance for persons having difficulty paying their rent. Call 212-964-5900.

  3. The Legal Aid Society may be able to provide help. See the page on finding legal assistance for contact numbers.

  4. Catholic Charities may provide a one-time grant for back rent payments. Call 718-722-6001.

  5. The NYC Department for the Aging (which can be reached via the City's Citizen Service Center by dialing 311) provides eligible senior citizens with household incomes of less than $24,000 per year with rent assistance under a program called SCRIE, which in effect freezes the rents. Visit their Web site for information and referrals. Also, see the Attorney General's Housing Guide for Seniors and the DHCR Fact Sheet on the Special Rights of Seniors.

  6. Tenant advocacy organizations such as the Metropolitan Council on Housing (212-979-0611) and the NYS Tenants & Neighbors Coalition (212-608-4320) may also offer suggestions.

What is the Section 8 program?
Section 8 is a federal program which provides housing subsidies to qualified low income households. The tenant must apply for either a certificate or voucher. Unfortunately, the waiting list for this type of assistance is very long (about 8 years in New York City). Under the Certificate program, tenants generally pay 30% of their income as their portion of the rent. Owners must agree to a federally established "fair market rent." Under the Voucher program, the rent subsidy is the difference between 30% of the adjusted household income and a pre-established payment standard. If the rent exceeds the payment standard, the tenant must cover the difference.
Learn more

What are the eligibility requirements for Section 8 subsidies?
Eligibility requirements are determined by Section 8 sponsoring agencies. Visit the site page on Section 8 housing for contact information.

Where can I get information about affordable housing for seniors?
If you are in a rent-controlled or stabilized-apartment, or you are in a subsidized co-op such as a Mitchell-Lama building, you can apply for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) Program. SCRIE exempts senior citizens who have an annual income of below $24,000 and pay over 1/3 of their income for rent, from all or part of rent increases. For more information about the program, contact the Department for the Aging and HPD directly:

Learn more

What are the income limits for public housing and Mitchell-Lama housing?
Subsidized housing programs such as public housing and Mitchell-Lama housing have a variety of income limits. For more information and contact information for these programs, click on the following links to reach information pages on public housing, Section 8 housing, and Mitchell-Lama housing.

How do I apply for an apartment created through the 80/20 program?
Apartments created through the 80/20 Program and sponsored by the New York State Housing Finance Agency are advertised in the real estate section of local newspapers and on the Web site of the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) at www.dhcr.state.ny.us. HDC- and HPD-sponsored 80/20 apartments are also advertised in local newspapers and on the agencies' respective Web pages: www.nychdc.com and nyc.gov/hpd. Additionally, HPD has an Affordable Housing Hotline that describes available apartments and provides information on obtaining an application. Please call 311 for further information (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK).




Home Buying

How can I get help in buying affordable housing?
There are many resources that you can look into to find and purchase affordable housing. Start by contacting the following organizations:

  1. NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) is very active in providing housing for low-income families. They have information on their Web site about a number of housing programs. You can also call their Affordable Housing Hotline at (212) 863-5610 to get listings of rental buildings currently accepting applications.

  2. Housing Partnership Development Corporation is a nonprofit organization that develops affordable housing for moderate-income families (earning between $35,000 and $75,000). Call 646-217-3370 for more information.

  3. NYS Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) is the local government body that helps provide mortgages for low and moderate-income families. For more information, call 800-382-HOME (4663).

  4. Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) is a not-for-profit housing organization and has many programs for homebuyers. NHS offers homebuyer education and counseling, can help you obtain a mortgage, and also offers assistance with down payment and closing costs. You can call NHS at (212) 519-2500.

Learn more

What are the requirements to apply for City-sponsored housing?
Requirements vary by program. Some City-sponsored homeownership programs are limited to households that fall within certain income levels. Some require the purchaser to be a first-time homebuyer, defined as someone who has never owned a small home (one- or two-family home), co-op, or condo for use as a primary residence. Applicants should also be credit worthy and able to qualify for a mortgage.
Learn more
List of current Homebuying lotteries

How can I purchase a City-sponsored home?
HPD has developed several programs that enable New York's families to purchase new homes constructed on vacant City-owned properties or newly-renovated City-owned homes. City subsidies and other financing tools are used to make these homes affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income families. Applications are available from the developer or the marketing agent hired by the developer to market the homes. The contact information for any developer that is currently accepting applications is available at HPD's Web site, nyc.gov/hpd. Developers of City-sponsored homes and apartments are required by HPD to advertise in a New York City metro daily paper, a community newspaper where the homes/apartments are located, and an ethnic newspaper. HPD does not provide applications for homes sold through City-sponsored programs. Purchasers for the homes are selected through a lottery supervised by HPD. Many people have expressed interest in buying a dilapidated building and fixing it up themselves. HPD does not sell buildings in dilapidated condition to the general public. Occasionally, we sell a building at market value when we have buildings in better physical shape. Current tenants in good standing are given the first opportunity to purchase their building. If the tenants are not interested or not able to purchase, the building is offered to the general public through a Request for Offers process as part of the Asset Sales program. Those interested should call (212) 863-7337.

Who can purchase a home developed through one of HPD's programs?
Requirements vary. Some City-sponsored homeownership programs are limited to households that fall within certain income levels. Some require the purchaser to be a first-time homebuyer, defined as someone who has never owned a small home (one- or two-family home), co-op, or condo for use as a primary residence. Applicants should also be credit worthy and able to qualify for a mortgage. There is a community preference for all City-sponsored homes.

How do I buy an HPD-owned Building?
Many people have expressed interest in buying a dilapidated building and fixing it up themselves. HPD does not sell buildings in dilapidated condition to the general public. Occasionally, HPD sells buildings at market value without City subsidy through the Asset Sales program when they are in better physical shape. Current tenants in good standing are given the first opportunity to purchase their building. If the tenants are not interested or not able to purchase, the building is offered to the general public through a Request for Offers Process. Those interested may call (212) 863-7630. Information on plans for specific HPD-owned buildings may be obtained by calling 212-863-8961.

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services' (DCAS) Division of Real Estate holds auctions of vacant land and commercial buildings. Please call 311 for further information (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK).

Where can I get homebuyer counseling?
Click here for a list of HPD-approved counseling agencies

Is there any down payment assistance?
Many New Yorkers want to buy a home but don't have enough money saved for their down payment and closing costs. As part of Mayor Bloomberg's "New Housing Marketplace Plan," the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) created the HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance program. It provides qualified homebuyers with up to 6% of the home's purchase price as a forgivable loan to use toward the down payment or closing costs on a new one-four family home, a condominium, or a cooperative in one of the five boroughs of New York City. This means that if the home costs $400,000, the eligible buyer would get $24,000.

How can I reduce the amount of property tax I have to pay?
Exemptions and abatements are two different types of property tax reduction programs. Both reduce the amount of property tax that a residential owner must pay each year, but in different ways. There are residential programs and commercial ones. There are exemptions for senior citizens, families where one or more of the property owners has a disability, veterans, and one - the School Tax Relief (STAR) - that is available to virtually all homeowners. There are also special exemptions and abatements for residential or commercial property owners who are building or renovating properties.
Learn more

How can I qualify for the Mayor's property tax rebate?
Owners of one-, two-, and three-family houses (property Class 1) and condominiums and cooperative apartments (property Class 2) are eligible for the annual $400 property tax rebate, if at least one of the property owners uses the house or apartment as his or her primary residence. To qualify for the 2006 rebate, new homeowners must be current on payment of their property taxes, and they must have applied for the School Tax Relief (STAR) exemption. The STAR application serves two purposes: 1) it certifies that the home is the owner's primary residence, which qualifies the owner for the rebate, and 2) STAR reduces the owner's property taxes by approximately $200 a year, every year, until the owner moves.
Learn more




Tenant's Rights and Legal Help

I have no heat or hot water in my apartment. What can I do?
By law, residential owners must provide adequate heat between October 1 and May 31. During this period, between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm, if the outside temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, owners must heat apartments to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, if the outside temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, owners must heat apartments to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Owners must also provide hot water at a minimum constant temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.

Tenants whose building owners fail to provide adequate heat or hot water should first speak with the owner or building manager about the problem. If an owner does not restore heat and hot water, tenants should then call the City's Citizen Service Center at 311, open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to lodge a complaint (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK).

My landlord refuses to make repairs to my apartment. What can I do?
If you are a tenant in a building, there are several things you can do to get your landlord to make repairs; however, you may want to take the following steps in order to establish a record:

  1. Contact the building superintendent regarding the repairs.

  2. If the superintendent or management company does not respond, write a letter to the owner of the building that describes the problems in your apartment and asks for the repairs to be made by a certain date. You should send the letter to the owner and management company by certified mail and keep a copy for your records.

  3. If you do not receive a response to the letter, you should try to contact the owner in person or by phone. Let him or her know that if the repairs are not completed, that the tenant will have to file a complaint. Keep a record of all of your attempts to get the landlord to make repairs, as this will be useful in court.

If the owner still does not respond or fails to provide essential services, you may report the condition to the City's Citizen Service Center at 311 (311 may be accessed outside New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK). For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is (212) 504-4115. The Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also bring a case against the landlord in Housing Court to get an order to correct the conditions. This case is called an HP Action. HP actions are lawsuits brought by tenants or groups of tenants against landlords to force them to make repairs and provide essential services, like heat and hot water. A landlord's failure to make a repair or provide an important service may be a violation of the New York City Housing Maintenance Code or the Multiple Dwelling Law. In an HP action, a judge can order the landlord to correct the violations. If you want to start an HP proceeding against your landlord, go to the Clerk's Office at the Housing Court. You do not need a lawyer to start an HP case.

Tenants living in an HPD-owned building who have complaints about the maintenance of their apartment should call 212-491-4229 or 311.

Tenants in rent controlled or rent stabilized apartments may contact the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) Office of Rent Administration. Call 311 for information. DHCR may impose penalties on building owners in the form of rent reductions if a tenant's problems are valid.

Tenants with maintenance complaints about apartments in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings should go to their management office and fill out a work ticket.

Can my landlord enter my apartment at any time?
Generally no. However, a landlord may enter a tenant's apartment in some situations. For example, generally, the landlord can enter your apartment:

  1. At a reasonable time after providing reasonable notice if the entry is either
    • To provide necessary or agreed upon repairs or services, or

    • In accordance with the lease, or

    • To show the apartment to prospective tenants or purchasers; and

  2. In an emergency, at any time and without notice.

My landlord has changed the locks on my apartment. Is the landlord allowed to change my locks?
Changing the locks on an resident's apartment without giving the resident a key would be a violation of the Unlawful Eviction Law (NYC Administrative Code §26-521) if:

  1. The resident is:
    • A tenant or subtenant with a lease,

    • An occupant who has lawfully lived in the apartment for more than thirty days (with or without the lease),

    • A subtenant, roommate, or relative who has lived in the apartment for at least thirty days (even if the person is not on the lease and has not made any direct payments to the landlord),

    • A resident of a rent-stabilized hotel room who has made a request for a lease;
      and
  2. The landlord does not have a warrant of eviction.

What is a Notice to Cure? What should I do?
The Notice to Cure generally provides you with notice that the landlord considers certain actions to be in violation of your obligations as a tenant. If the Notice correctly describes conditions in violation of your obligations and you can fix them within the time provided, cure the condition. If not, try to get some advice from an attorney or a tenant advocacy group about your rights. The Notice to Cure is not an eviction case or a court paper.

What is a Notice of Termination? What should I do?
If you received a Notice of Termination or Notice to Quit, it is also not a court document. These notices notify the tenant that the tenancy is terminated and that, if the tenant does not give up the apartment and move out, the landlord will go to court to seek the tenant's eviction. The length of the notice depends upon the nature of your tenancy (rent-stabilized, rent-controlled, unregulated, weekly or monthly) and/or the terms of your lease. At the end of the period, if you have not moved, the landlord may not simply put you out of your apartment. The landlord must start an eviction proceeding and obtain a warrant of eviction from the Court before you can be evicted. Thus, if you receive a Notice of Termination and do not move out of your apartment by the end of the notice period, you should receive a Notice of Petition and Petition seeking an order evicting you from your apartment (Holdover Proceeding). DO NOT IGNORE THESE PAPERS. As soon as you receive those papers, consult with an attorney or go to Housing Court on the date that the Notice of Petition advises you to appear.

I owe my Landlord rent and the landlord has demanded that I pay the rent. What should I do?
This depends on whether or not you have a lease and upon your reasons for not paying. Remember that the landlord must go to court and get permission to evict you. You cannot be evicted without the court's permission. The demand for rent is not a court paper and is not an eviction case. Generally, the landlord must make a demand for rent before going to court. If you do not pay the rent, you should receive a Notice of Petition and Petition seeking an order evicting you from your apartment for non-payment of rent (Nonpayment Proceeding).

If you are not withholding rent to get repairs, you should pay the rent in order to avoid being sued. If you do not have the money, you may want to visit a New York City Human Resources Administration Job Center to see if you are eligible for emergency assistance. To find the location of the appropriate Job Center, where you may make an application for emergency assistance, you can call the HRA information line (877) 472-8411.

If you are withholding rent because your apartment needs repairs, make sure that you save the money for the rent and keep it in a safe place, such as a bank account. However, it is not advisable to withhold rent to get repairs unless you have legal assistance.

I received a Notice of Petition and Petition. What should I do?
Do not ignore it. A Notice of Petition and Petition are court papers for an eviction case. If you do not respond to the papers, you can be evicted from your apartment.

If the Notice of Petition and Petition are in a Holdover Proceeding, what should I do?
You must go to court on the date stated in the Notice of Petition. This will be your first court date. It is extremely important that you go to court on that date because if you miss it, the landlord may be able to get a default judgment of eviction. At the court, you may answer orally or in writing. Most tenants without lawyers should answer orally to the Clerk of the Court. The defenses to a holdover case are very complicated and you should be sure to talk to the Resource Center in the Housing Court before answering. Security guards in the courthouse will know where the center is located. At the Resource Center, you can speak with an attorney who can provide advice about filing an answer and proceeding with the case. When you answer, a court date should be assigned.

If the Notice of Petition and Petition or "Dispossess" are in a Nonpayment Proceeding, what should I do?
You must go to the Housing Court and "answer" within five days of receiving the Notice of Petition. An answer is a list of reasons why you believe that the landlord should not win the eviction case. At the Court, you will have to submit an answer, either orally or in writing. The Court Clerk will help you and prepare the answer for you. You should bring the Notice of Petition and Petition with you to the court.

You should be familiar with appropriate legal defenses and counterclaims before going to court. Your answer should include all defenses and counterclaims that may apply to the case. Before going to the courtroom, you should stop by the Resource Center located in the Housing Court. Security guards in the courthouse will know where the center is located. At the Resource Center, you can speak with an attorney who can provide advice about filing your answer and proceeding with your case.

Although tenants may answer orally or in writing, it is highly recommended that an unrepresented tenant answer orally. To answer orally, you should speak with a clerk at the counter who will ask you questions and fill out a form based on the answers. You will be given a copy of the form once it is completed. You should read the form to see if the answers are correct. If not, you should tell the clerk and ask the clerk to change the form. You should bring a copy of the answer and all other relevant documents with you on the hearing date.

If you do not go to Court to answer or if you do not appear in Court on the date that your case is scheduled, the landlord may obtain a default judgment of eviction against you and you may be evicted from your home.

Am I guaranteed a renewal lease in my unregulated apartment?
Except for rent-regulated apartments, a tenant may only renew the lease with the consent of the landlord. A lease may contain an automatic renewal clause. In such case, the landlord must give the tenant advance notice of the existence of this clause between 15 and 30 days before the tenant is required to notify the landlord of an intention not to renew the lease. (General Obligations Law §5-905)

Tenants who do not have leases and pay rent on a monthly basis are called month-to-month tenants. In localities without rent regulation, tenants who stay past the end of a lease are treated as month-to-month tenants if the landlord accepts their rent. (Real Property Law §232-c) A landlord may raise the rent of a month-to-month tenant with the consent of the tenant. However, if the tenant does not consent, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice (Real Property Law §232-b)
In New York City, the landlord must serve the tenant with a written termination giving 30 days notice before the expiration of the term. The notice must state that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to eviction proceedings (Real Property Law §232-a).

I am a rent-stabilized tenant. Do I have the right to a lease renewal?
Although there are some exceptions, tenants in rent-stabilized apartments have a basic right under state law to select a lease renewal for a one- or two-year term. The landlord must give written notice to the tenant of the right to renewal no more than 150 days and not less than 90 days prior to the end of the lease.

If you have a valid lease and have paid your rent on time, a landlord cannot evict you. According to state law, a tenant who is put out of his/her apartment in a forcible or unlawful manner is entitled to recover triple damages in a legal action against the wrongdoer. Landlords in New York City who use illegal methods to force a tenant to move are also subject to both criminal and civil penalties. Further, the tenant is entitled to be restored to occupancy. (RPAPL §713, ó853).

Can I share my apartment with a roommate?
Generally yes. If you rented the apartment by yourself, you may allow your immediate family and one additional person and their dependent children to move in. However, there are laws to prevent overcrowding in apartments, and the landlord may limit the total number of people you may move in to the apartment. If you want to share your apartment, you should continue to live in the apartment unless you intend to sublet the apartment with the owner's permission.

You must tell your landlord the name of any new tenants in your apartment within 30 days from the time that the person moves in, or within 30 days after a request by the landlord. (Real Property Law §235(f)).

My landlord raised my rent. I think it is too high. What can I do?
If your apartment is subject to rent stabilization, the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) and the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) determine the amount that your landlord may increase your rent. If you don't know the status of your apartment, you can call DHCR at (718) 739-6400. DHCR can also answer any questions about whether the amount of the increase is too high.

If your apartment is not regulated, DHCR does not regulate your rent. If you have a lease, the legal rent is what it states in the lease and can be raised only as permitted by the lease or at the expiration of the lease. If you do not have a lease, the landlord may raise your rent to whatever amount the landlord wishes, as long as the landlord tells you a month before the rent increase. If you do not pay the increase, the landlord may evict you if you received legally adequate notice of the increase.

If you live in public or subsidized housing, increases in the amount of rent you pay are subject to the regulations for that housing and are usually related to your family's income.

What is the City's law about lead-based paint?
The City's lead law requires owners of multiple dwellings to repair all peeling, cracking, scaling, flaking, blistering, chipping, or lose in any manner paint. The law further requires owners of such buildings to inquire whether children under the age of seven reside in the building and to visually inspect their apartments for lead hazards once a year. Lead-based paint violations must be repaired using safe work practices, within the timeframes specified by law and HPD rules.

To report peeling paint or other potential lead violations, tenants may contact the City's Citizen Service Center, open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, at 311.

The landlord says that a carbon monoxide detecting device must be installed in my apartment and that I must pay for it.
The owner must install a carbon monoxide detecting device in your apartment. It is your obligation to maintain that device and to replace it if it is missing or inoperable. The owner can require you to pay $25 to reimburse the cost of that installation. Some limited exceptions apply. Click here for details.

Am I supposed to get my security deposit back?
Yes, at the end of your tenancy, you are entitled to get your security deposit back with interest. Before returning your deposit the landlord may check your apartment to determine if you caused any damage. If you did not cause damage to the apartment, the landlord should return the full amount of your deposit with interest. If you did cause damage, the landlord is permitted to deduct the cost of repairing that damage before returning the balance of your security deposit to you.

What are my responsibilities as a tenant?
Tenants must comply with the provisions of the law and are responsible for violations caused by willful acts, gross negligence, and abuse. These, as well as unreasonable refusal to allow access to the apartment by the owner or his or her agent or employee for the purpose of making repairs or improvements required by the Housing Maintenance Code and Multiple Dwelling Law, may constitute grounds for eviction proceedings. Visit the following links to read the sections of the Housing Maintenance Code on "Duties of tenants" and "Tenant violations as grounds for eviction."

What should I do if my building owner is harassing me?
Building owners are prohibited by law from harassing tenants to force them out of their apartments. Examples of harassment include verbal or physical abuse, consistent withholding of services, or persistent physical or mental intimidation. Tenants in rent regulated apartments who believe they are being harassed by their building owner may contact the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) Office of Rent Administration. Call 311 or visit DHCR's Web site at www.dhcr.state.ny.us.

Tenants who live in buildings that are not rent-regulated who believe they are being harassed may have grounds to initiate legal action in Housing Court against their building owners. Tenants may want to consult with and secure the services of an attorney before initiating any lawsuit. Tenants who cannot afford legal representation may be eligible for free or inexpensive assistance from the Legal Aid Society, which may be reached at (212) 577-3300. Tenants may also seek legal assistance from HPD's Fair Housing Counselors who offer advice and Housing Court Mediation services. Assistance is also available at information tables set up in Housing Court.

Can a building owner discriminate against me?
By law, owners may not deny prospective tenants housing because of race, color, religion, nationality, gender, sexual preference, age, marital status, disability, immigrant status, or legal occupation. Furthermore, tenants may not be denied housing because their children are or will be residing with them.

Tenants who believe they have experienced housing discrimination may file complaints within one year of the incident by calling the New York City Commission on Human Rights at 311.




Repairs and Maintenance

I have no heat or hot water in my apartment. What can I do?
By law, residential owners must provide adequate heat between October 1 and May 31. During this period, between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm, if the outside temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, owners must heat apartments to at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, if the outside temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, owners must heat apartments to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Owners must also provide hot water at a minimum constant temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit all year round.

Tenants whose building owners fail to provide adequate heat or hot water should first speak with the owner, managing agent, or superintendent about the problem. If your owner does not restore heat and hot water, tenants should then call the City's Citizen Service Center at 311, open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to lodge a complaint (311 can be accessed outside of New York City by dialing (212) NEW YORK).

My landlord refuses to make repairs to my apartment. What can I do?
If you are a tenant in a privately-owned building, contact the owner, managing agent, or building superintendent regarding the repairs. If the owner, managing agent, or superintendent does not respond or fails to provide essential services, you may report the condition to the City's Citizen Service Center at 311 (311 may be accessed outside New York City by dialing 212-NEW-YORK). For the hearing impaired, the TTY number is 212-504-4115. The Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Tenants living in an HPD-owned building who have complaints about the maintenance of their apartment should call (212) 491-4229. For repair emergencies after hours and on weekends, call 311 and ask for an HPD Specialist.

Tenants in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments may contact the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) Office of Rent Administration. Call 311 for information. DHCR may impose penalties on building owners in the form of rent reductions if a tenant's problems are valid.

Tenants living in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings: NYCHA residents in Queens or Staten Island who need repairs should call NYCHA's Centralized Call Center at 718-707-7717, 24 hours a day, for all repairs and maintenance. NYCHA residents in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan should report problems to their management office during regular office hours, and for EMERGENCY REPAIRS ONLY WHEN THE MANAGEMENT OFFICE IS CLOSED should call 718-707-7777.

Can I go to Housing Court?
You can bring a case against the landlord in Housing Court and ask the Judge to issue an Order to Correct the violations. This case is called an HP Action (HP stands for Housing Part). HP actions are lawsuits brought by tenants or groups of tenants against landlords to force them to make repairs and provide essential services, such as heat and hot water. A landlord's failure to make a repair or provide an important service may be a violation of the New York City Housing Maintenance Code or the Multiple Dwelling Law. In an HP action, a judge can order the landlord to correct the violations. If you want to start an HP proceeding against your landlord, go to the Clerk's Office at the Housing Court. You do not need a lawyer to start an HP case.

The following could support a future lawsuit or help you file for a rent reduction with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal. (Tenants in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments may contact the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) Office of Rent Administration. DHCR may impose penalties on building owners in the form of rent reductions if a tenant's problems are valid.) If your owner, managing agent, or building superintendent does not respond to your maintenance complaint, write a letter to the owner of the building that describes the problems in your apartment and asks for the repairs to be made by a certain date. You should send the letter to the owner and management company by certified mail and keep a copy for your records. If you do not receive a response to the letter, you should try to contact the owner in person or by phone. Let him or her know that if the repairs are not completed, that you - the tenant - will have to file a complaint. Keep a record of all of your attempts to get the landlord to make repairs, as this will be useful in court.

What programs does HPD offer to help me repair my house or apartment building?
To qualified homeowners, HPD offers low-interest rehabilitation loans in neighborhoods throughout the City. The agency also works with Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) to offer various loans below market rate. For more information about these loan programs, call 212-863-5300, or see our section on loan programs for building owners.

Owners of apartment buildings requiring systems repairs such as new plumbing or electrical systems may find assistance through HPD loan programs such as the Article 8A Loan Program. Owners of apartment buildings requiring more extensive rehabilitation may seek financial help from the Participation Loan Program (PLP). Homeowners should consider the Small Buildings Loan Program.

HPD's Tax Incentives Programs provide temporary tax relief for owners who build new housing or renovate their property.

Once a month, HPD staff travel to a different borough to host Owners' Night: An Evening Dedicated to Helping New York City's Property Owners. Learn about the availability of low-interest loans, free educational courses, and free owner counseling.

If you would like to receive e-mails from HPD with information for residential building owners, including details about upcoming Owners' Nights, visit the NYC HPD E-mail Update Subscription Center.




Home Improvements

Does a contractor need a license to do the kind of renovation or home improvement work that I need done?
With the exception of electricians, plumbers, architects, professional engineers, and security alarm installers, any contractor soliciting or doing more than $200 of home improvement work within the five boroughs must have a license from the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). This applies to contracts with homeowners who own single or multiple dwellings of up to four residences, and it applies to tenants, condominium unit owners, and cooperative shareholders who are making improvements to their apartments (regardless of the number of residences or dwelling units in the buildings where they reside). Call 311 or visit the DCA Web site for complete licensing information and consumer tips.

What are my legal rights when entering into a contract for home improvement work?
New York City law requires that home improvement contractors must provide you with a contract that describes the terms of the services to be provided. Contracts negotiated in Spanish must be written in Spanish and you have the right to cancel within 72 hours of signing them.

Do I have to pay for repairs or improvements up front?
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) advises homeowners never to pay the total amount of a home improvement job in cash upfront. Homeowners can best protect themselves by paying one-third upfront by check and then making "progress payments" as the job moves along, with a timetable set in the contract.

Can I get reimbursed if my licensed contractor skips town without finishing a job?
The DCA can reimburse aggrieved homeowners from its Home Improvement Trust Fund – up to a maximum of $15,000 – but only if: the homeowner hired and paid a licensed contractor; the licensed contractor contributed to the Trust Fund during the relevant license period; a judge determines that the contractor violated the law causing the homeowner to suffer monetary damages; and the licensed contractor cannot be located or made to pay.