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Can I Sue My New York Landlord?

A lot of tenants see their landlord as this unstoppable all powerful being who literally owns the roof over their head. But tenants have a...

A lot of tenants see their landlord as this unstoppable all powerful being who literally owns the roof over their head. But tenants have a great deal of power in New York. If your landlord has harassed you in any way or has taken financial liberties with you, then you have a right to fight back. 

Tenants are well within their rights to sue a landlord who has engaged in illegal behavior. This can include negligence on repairs, illegal eviction actions, withholding a security deposit, or harassment.

If you believe that your landlord has illegally impeded your rights, contact an experienced real estate law firm like
Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C. to review your legal options.

If a landlord has failed to make needed repairs on your home, that is negligence and it is enforceable by law. 

New York tenants are entitled to certain amenities and services under the
Warrant of Habitability, an implied legal guarantee that a landlord will provide a minimum quality of life.

Landlords are required to provide heat, hot and cold water, power, light, telephone services, and elevator services to their tenants. While not all landlords include these services as part of monthly rent, a tenant must still have access to them. If an amenity were to suddenly break, tell your landlord immediately. If they do not make the needed repairs within a reasonable amount of time, you can bring legal action against them, including withholding rent until the issue has been fixed.

If you’re living with a pest infestation, your landlord is also required to take action. This includes mice, rats, vermin, bugs, insects, and roaches.

Illegal Eviction Actions
In New York, you can only be evicted if you’ve failed to pay rent or you’ve violated a clause in your lease agreement. A landlord can’t just kick you out because they don’t like you.

But even if you have committed an evict-able offense,
there is an involved process that must be followed to the letter before you can be removed. If you have not paid rent, the landlord must give you three days to make the payment. If you don’t then you can be evicted. If you violate the lease, the landlord will serve you with a notice to cure, giving you 10 days to come into compliance. Failure to do so results in a notice of termination which gives you 30 days to vacate the premises. If you don’t, you can be forcibly evicted.

Anything other than what was described above is an illegal eviction action, and you can fight back. Illegal evictions are considered a form of harassment. These actions can include changing the locks, cutting off utilities, entering without permission, or removing a tenant’s property without consent.

Security Deposit Discrepancy
In New York, a landlord is required to keep all security deposits in separate interest-bearing bank accounts, apart from their personal or business funds. It’s important to remember that, until it is used for a legal purpose, that money still belongs to you.

A landlord can use your security deposit to collect unpaid rent, or to repair any issues related to your specific rental unit that were directly caused by you or your guests. Normal wear and tear is not included in this. Using your money to make general building repairs that have nothing to do with you or your unit is illegal.

A landlord must return any unused funds after the tenant has moved out, and the state of New York gives them “a reasonable amount of time” to do so. There are no set rules as to when security deposits must be returned, but if months have gone by then you can take legal action.

Remember that you are not powerless as a tenant. Your landlord is bound by law, the same as anyone. If your landlord has engaged in any of the above-mentioned activities, you might have grounds to sue. Contact a real estate attorney for more information on what your options are. 

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