We've all been there: something very annoying or very serious is broken in our apartment and the landlord won't deal with it. Well, what can you do? The short answer is not much if it's not their responsibility, and a lot if it is their responsibility. New York state requires landlords to handle anything that's an essential services, and in larger buildings in New York City they might even be obligated to fix terraces and appliances.
Documentation of the problem
Take a lot of photos and video of the problem and record it somewhere safe. That won't be enough, though: you'll need a third party to verify that you're not making things up. In New York City this is easy to do - just call 311 or make a request (anonymous or not) on their website. You'll be asked to share as many details as possible and someone will be out to your apartment within a few days.
Sending a request
New York law requires you to notify your landlord of the problem in writing. You don't need to use certified mail but this is always a good idea so that you can prove your notification was received.
- Have proof that notification was not only sent, but also received.
- Make two separate attempts to tell them about the problem
- Make sure they can enter as needed to take a look at the issue (landlords have tried to defend themselves by claiming that tenants wouldn’t allow them or their contractors into the apartment.
If your fight with your landlord ever were to go to court (this would be after you stopped paying rent to try and get them to fix something) the adequacy of your notice to your landlord will be one of the first issues the judge looks at.
Plenty of unfortunate tenants before you have learned this the hard way. For example the plaintiff in Dunson v. Riverbay Corp's bathroom ceiling collapsed on him. The court hearing his case disallowed his proof of notification because he didn’t immediately present it to the judge.
In Litwack v. Plaza Realty Investors, the court dismissed entirely a tenant’s case against his landlord for mold growth, finding that she had never made proper notification. Here’s the quote from the case to keep in mind when it comes to notifying your landlord: “Plaintiff [in this case, the tenant] bears the burden of proving that the landlord had notice of the dangerous condition and a reasonable opportunity to repair it.”
If you can't get your landlord to fix something in New York then, after waiting a month, you'll need to bring out the big guns be preparing to withhold rent.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.