Skip to main content

NYC Student Tenant Rights

A guide for NYC-based college students navigating the wide world of housing law, from dorms to sub-leases, bad landlords to worse roommates.

Lease walk-through video

What you can legally ask & expect from your landlord

landlord cartoon

via CartoonistGroup

Landlords are people too, which means some are great and some are... not so great. Here are a few resources to back you up and help you mobilize if your landlord isn't following through on their responsibilities and/or promises:

"How Can I Get Repairs from My Landlord?" - Mobilization for Justice

(1) Ask your landlord in writing by yourself (2) Get together with other tenants in your building and write a joint letter to the landlord (3) Make a complaint to a government agency (4) Take your landlord to court (5) Force your landlord to take you to court

"Bedbug Information For Owners and Tenants" - NYC Health

For tenants in New York, the right to a bedbug-free environment is included in New York City's Housing and Maintenance Code, Subchapter 2, Article 4 , which specifically names bedbugs in the list of insects the landlord is legally obligated to eradicate.

"Tenants' Rights Guide" - New York State Office of the Attorney General

The rights of residential tenants in New York State are protected by a variety of federal, state and local laws. This guide has everything you need to know on all of that, handily organized by subject. 

"Rentlogic" - NYC Open Data

Want to avoid having to take any of the steps above? Learn about your landlord and their building before you move in, using this tool that grades 1.1 million apartment buildings in New York City based on physical inspections and objective health and safety standards

2017 Landlord Watchlist - New York City Public Advocate's Office

An information-sharing tool that identifies which NYC buildings and landlords consistently violate City laws. The list includes the top 100 "worst" landlords, objectively ranked based on the number of open housing code violations have been issued to their buildings by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). 

Heat and Hot Water Requirements -

Information on heat and hot water legal requirements for NYC renters. Includes links to download helpful magnets and flyers in multiple languages (Arabic, Chinese, Hatian Creole, Russian, and Spanish) as well as up-to-date data collected on heat and hot water complaints.

  heat requirements


Your rights in a sublet

A sublet can be a great way to make sure you have housing when you need it, and you're not paying for it when you don't. But a sublet is also a bit more legally slippery than a traditional lease. Check out these resources to make sure your sublet situation is legit, and that you're protected:

"Sublease Tenants Rights" - McAdams Law

In New York State, tenants have a right to sublease their apartments. Most leases require the landlord's written permission. The landlord is not allowed to refuse permission "unreasonably," but the method of getting permission is tightly regulated.

"Subletting Your Apartment" - Metropolitan Housing Council

You are a subletter if you live in an apartment temporarily while the tenant named on the lease is away for a period of time, but intends to return. (If you are renting an apartment from the prime tenant without the knowledge or consent of the landlord, your sublet may not be legal.)

"Subletting in New York" - N.Y. Real Property Law Journal

This article explores the common illegal sublet scenarios, the steps a landlord must follow to commence an alleged illegal-sublet holdover proceeding, the holdover proceeding itself along with motion practice and disclosure, and a tenant’s opportunity to cure an illegal sublet.

Your rights with your roommate

roommates cartoon

via roshrulez

40% of adult renters in New York live with roommates, which means that every day there's at least one argument in the city about who ate whose leftovers or whose turn it is to vacuum. Occasionally, tthings get legal, so be prepared with these roommate rights resources:

"Your Rights As A Roommate" - Metropolitan Council on Housing

The word roommate is used to describe many types of living arrangements, which can cause confusion and misunderstanding. Your legal rights change depending on the type of arrangement you have. In this document, a roommate means: a person who is not named on the lease of the apartment he or she shares with another person.

"Resolving Conflicts with Roommates" - Tenants Union of Washington State

Navigating issues that arise between roommates sharing housing can be extremely complicated, and unfortunately there is nothing in the Landlord-Tenant Act that addresses the issue. Sometimes roommates enter into a rental agreement without knowing each other well, and new tenants may come and go without being properly placed on or removed from the contract, which can be problematic in some rental situations.

"Roommates FAQ" - NYC Rent Guidelines Board

A sampler of questions: I'm not on the lease - what are my rights? Can I get my unpleasant roommate's name off the lease we both signed? My roommates took my name off the lease while I was away - can they do this? How can I takeover my friends' apartment they are vacating soon?

What to know about housing discrimination

discrimination infographic

In New York City you have not just one but three layers of laws backing you up if you experience housing discrimination:

"NYC Human Rights Law" - NYC Commission on Human Rights

The NYC Commission on Human Rights enforces the City Human Rights Law, and protects individuals from discrimination in housing based on the protected classes under the Law, promoting equal opportunity and prohibiting discriminatory practices that unfairly limit the housing choices of protected groups or individuals.

"New York State Human Rights Law" - New York State Division of Human Rights

Guarantees the opportunity to obtain education, the use of places of public accommodation and the ownership, use and occupancy of housing accommodations and commercial space without discrimination because of age, race, creed, color, national origin or sexual orientation.

"Fair Housing" - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for any housing. The prohibitions specifically cover discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children.

Do you think you may have experienced housing discrimination in NYC? You can reach out to the Fair Housing Justice Center, based in Long Island City, Queens, which offers support in  interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, and counseling individuals on their rights and options under all of the fair housing laws.