A Guide to Tenants' Rights

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Do you know your renter's rights? Jaron Benjamin, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, takes your questions about renters' rights, landlords' responsibilities, leases, buy outs, affordable housing, and more.


Renter's Resources

Here are some useful sites to help you understand your rights as a renter. After the segment, we'll also update this list with specific information mentioned on air.


Jaron Benjamin

Comments [34]

David from Bronx

Very questionable handling of the refrigerator situation on your part. On 99.9% of residential leases in NYC, the refrigerator is considered the landlord's property and it is the landlord's responsibility and right to replace it. Only if you asked the landlord for permission to buy your own refrigerator and the landlord agrees for you do replace and agrees that it will be considered your property do you then have the right to take the refrigerator with you when you leave.

Brian, your attitude toward landlords shines through in your comments, and it is not a healthy one.

May. 09 2014 09:11 PM
Merium from Long Island City

I have a rent stabilized lease. Do I have the right to sublet if while I go out of state for 6 months? My landlord says no subletting is allowed in the building. What are my rights?

May. 07 2014 08:16 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Sheldon, yes, a $2500+ rent apartment with tenant making $200K+ can be destabilized without vacancy (of course). Thanks for the correction.

May. 06 2014 11:34 AM
Renter from East Village

Check out this video link of State Senator Hoylman speaking about gentrification in NYC, and the effects on tenants and the community, at a tenant rally and East Village Tenant Parade against Gentrification on Sat. He talks about how tenants rights are routinely violated by landlords with impunity in their frenzy to empty regulated apartments.
The tenants who organized this event are not rolling over and letting the landlord harass them out of their apartments. All NYC tenants, not just rent regulated tenants, should get active and learn their rights and demand that they are respected by landlords and the City.

May. 06 2014 11:28 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@Fuva, Thanks, I thought they may have raised the threshold, that's why I said "around" 175K, which was the old limit, yes it is now 200K. The apt does not have to be vacant for that to go in effect, that was Rob's question.

May. 06 2014 11:25 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Joyce, good point about clarity of information. Really, the dearth of quality tenant resources in a city of renters is pathetic. Tenants must get just a little more activated.

For instance, THAT WOMAN IS PAYING $3000 FOR A RENT CONTROLLED APARTMENT? Doesn't sound right. She's probably getting played and doesn't know it...

And, Sheldon, an apartment can be destabilized only after vacancy, $2500+ rent and $200k salary:

May. 06 2014 11:14 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@ Mary/Mandee,

You should call DHCR.

May. 06 2014 11:13 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@ Confused,

Get a lawyer or legal aid asap.

May. 06 2014 11:12 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn


The legal rent is the maximum rent a land-lord can legally charge for a RS apt. You are on a preferential rent (the rent the LL thought they could get, per the market, when they rented the apt to you)

Your preferential rent is in effect only until the length of the lease. The LL may ask for the legal rent then but most LL's usually base their increases on the preferential rent if you are a good tenant.

May. 06 2014 11:11 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Really people, every tenant should be part of some tenant association or group. Soooo many tenants are completely unaware of their rights and are vulnerable for it. Why be so cavalier with your shelter, much less your home? The other thing is, while I really appreciate organizations like Met Council, they seem under-effective in engaging tenants. Maybe they think they don't need a large critical mass?

May. 06 2014 11:07 AM
Joyce Rowe from Manhattan

Just listening to this expert, I was surprised (unless I missed it) not to hear clear and precise info about how to check on whether your apt. is rent stabilized, or controlled, and what the rent actually should be. When I moved into such an apt. many decades ago, such info was available through one of the city agencies, and we used it to make sure our rent was accurate which it was. Isn't this still possible?

May. 06 2014 11:06 AM
annette osnos from nyc

I appreciate that this discussion should be had but I also feel that there is no consideration being given to the number of really bad renters there are out there and how landlords get stuck financially, physically and in court.
I would think that you'd see your way to having a similar discussion with small landlords too. Believe it or not, there are good ones out there trying to do the right thing.

May. 06 2014 11:02 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn


An apt cannot become de-stabilized, unless the current tenant makes around 175K or more, for 2 consecutive years.

May. 06 2014 10:57 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Rent stabilized leases may be renewed under the SAME TERMS as the original lease. Renewal leases may reflect changes in city regulations, but landlords may not add new terms.

May. 06 2014 10:56 AM
RG from prospect hts

Tenants have to check their rent histories, available from DHCR--check online--and the rent guidelines board to see what the increases have been and make sure they apt has been properly increased over the years. They can check those overage charges by comparing the 2.

Also, when Jaron said "150" days notice from the landlord in stabilized apts to renew their leases should have said "*90 to* 150 days" prior to expiration.

Also, for people deciding on leases now (1 vs 2): key: the RGB makes its decision in June for leases running from Oct 1 to Sept 30 of the Next year. So if someone's deciding right now, since it appears the new RGB is likely going to institute lower rent increases than the old RGB did last June, it may be worth it to choose a 1 year lease now (based on last June's decision); then, when their renewal comes up a year from now, they will have the option of choosing from the RGB increases made *this* June.

For these rules, it's worth checking the RGB web site.

May. 06 2014 10:56 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn


It all depends on the judge and the tenant's "hard luck" story.

May. 06 2014 10:55 AM
Elizabeth Timberman from Manhattan

I live In rent stabilized apartment, and was told that if I buy a new fridge, I will still have to pay a small rent increase that the landlord can tack on in perpetuity. Is this true? Brian said that he bought his own fridge without an rent increase.

I was told that if you have a injury and need grab bars installed on bathroom tub wall that the landlord would both cover the cost of the grab bars and the installation as well. My super says I must buy the grab bars. Is he just not informed, and where would I find the written law to,show him....?
Thank you

May. 06 2014 10:53 AM
emjayay from Brooklyn

Obviously leaving questions here was a pointless exercise. Why have comments open and not answer any? All of these people need advice and this was not the place to go. Why didn't you provide websites and phone numbers where people can go for help?

Pretty much a bait and switch (for nothing) enterprise. Way to go, now you have wasted the time of and frustrated a bunch of listeners.

May. 06 2014 10:52 AM
john from office

Brians socialist guide to harrassing your landlord.

How about a show about landlord rights and horror stories about tenants??

Works both ways Brian. Folks read what you sign and then you will know what kind of apartment you have.

May. 06 2014 10:51 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Great show, Brian and producers!

Since when do you have to get a landlord's permission for a roommate? You can have anyone living with you that you want, correct? Or maybe I misunderstood that caller.

There are MASSES of apartments being apparently illegally destabilized under J-51 abatements.

May. 06 2014 10:50 AM
Monique from Harlem

I rented a lemon. Everything is in need of repair. I had contractors in my apartment for 3 weeks, to repair/replace defective flooring. Unfortunately, they did it wrong and have to re-do it. Am I just supposed to pack up my life for 3 weeks and camp out on my kitchen floor? AGAIN?

May. 06 2014 10:44 AM
Mary from NYC

I have questions about rent increases related to Major Capital Improvements and what are my rights. For example, I disagree with the number of rooms that my landlord has listed for my apartment and I have no idea how I go about disputing this.

May. 06 2014 10:43 AM
Mandee from Manhattan

I have questions about rent increases related to Major Capital Improvements and what are my rights. Specifically I disagree with the number of rooms that my landlord has listed for my apartment and I have no idea how I go about disputing this.

May. 06 2014 10:40 AM
Linda on the UWS from Upper West Side

Do I have any legal recourse when a fellow tenant smokes and the smoke permeates my apartment -- and other adjoining apartments? It's an annoyance and a health hazard but I keep hearing there is nothing that can legally be done. We have tried everything we can to smoke-proof our apartment, but smoke finds a way to get it. And we've talked to the tenant but she doesn't seems able/willing to quit. Do you have any advice?

May. 06 2014 10:39 AM
Linda on the UWS from Upper West Side

Does I have any legal recourse when a fellow tenant smokes and the smoke permeates my apartment -- and other adjoining apartments? It's an annoyance and a health hazard but I keep hearing there is nothing that can legally be done. We have tried everything we can to smoke-proof our apartment, but smoke finds a way to get it. And we've talked to the tenant but she doesn't seems able/willing to quit. Do you have any advice?

May. 06 2014 10:38 AM
Alexa from Brooklyn

I have lived in the same apartment for 10 years., and the rent stabilization period is set to expire in the next few years. Once the period of rent stabilization period ends, can the landlord just raise the rent to whatever he wants, effectively forcing us to move? What about if he sells the units as condos? Can we be forced out with a giant rent hike?

May. 06 2014 10:37 AM
Confused in Brooklyn

I live in a rent-stabilized apt with an expired lease. Despite requests, the landlord has not renewed the leases and has stopped cashing our rent checks. The landlord has not responded to any questions. What recourse do I have?

May. 06 2014 10:34 AM

My apartment has a "legal rent" that's more than the rent I'm paying. I'm paying the market rate I suppose for rent in my neighborhood. Can someone explain to me what the "legal rent" mean, is this part of rent-stabilization?

May. 06 2014 10:33 AM
CJ from Washington Heights

I have three questions, would love to have any of them answered!

What happens, or can legally happen, if you are subletting your apartment and your landlord finds out? Can they kick you out?

I am a babysitter and one of the moms where I pick up was telling me that she was born and grew up in, and now lives in, a mitchell-lama apartment. She is a social worker, so I'm sure she's not making big bucks, but her husband is a lawyer and she sends her kids to fancy schmancy private school. How does mitchell-lama really work? Who should apply? Are the income guidelines strictly enforced?

Is it possible to ask for your landlord not to raise your rent by showing that you have made significant improvements to the apartment? What is the procedure?

Thank you!

May. 06 2014 10:29 AM
Rob from Brooklyn Heights

My wife's grandparents moved into a 3 bedroom in Bklyn Hgts in the 1940's. My wife and I live in the same apt with our son who is 23. We are getting ready to retire, and I would like to know if this apt can be passed along under rent control to my son, even though he has my last name. Also - we have no lease. If so, how does one go about processing this? Thanks you, love the show.

May. 06 2014 10:29 AM
ROB from Manhattan

At what price does an apt becoming de-controlled or de-stabilized? And what happens if the tenent is low or middle income? Do they have to start paying market rate? Or does the landlord have to wait for the next tenent to charge the market rate?

May. 06 2014 10:19 AM

Regarding rent-regulated senior citizens, who I believe are subject to ad hoc rent increases or decreases depending on their income, does the landlord monitor that renter's income? If so, how?

May. 06 2014 10:14 AM
Ken from Bronx

I have a question for the guest:

If tenant can't pay rent, what is the ABSOLUTE LONGEST that they can delay eviction?

Is it true that declaring Bankruptcy, claiming disability, or damaging the unit to create housing violations can delay eviction? For how long?

As a theoretical exercise, what is the maximum amount of rent-free time an NYC tenant can get?

May. 06 2014 09:48 AM
Nick from NYC

Can you ask your guest about the issue of J-51 tax abatements and rent-stabilization? I recently received, with my renewal lease, a notice asking me to sign to acknowledge that in 10 years my rent-stabilization will expire.

From what I've read so far, since this was NOT included in my original lease (of ca. 6 years ago), it can't suddenly be tacked on now. I have the right to a renewal lease, under the original terms of my original lease. I also question whether my building is in fact eligible to have J-51 status trump rent-stabilization, but that's another story. In my case, I just ignored the rider, since it wasn't in the original lease.

My understanding so far is that, if a building was rent-stabilized and residential before getting a J-51 abatement, it remains rent-stabilized.
The point of all this is, I think that landlords may be using this to intimidate and confuse tenants, who in fact may remain protected and eligible to continue having rent-stabilization cover their units.

Can your guest provide any clarity, or sources of good information on this?

thanks, /Nick

May. 06 2014 08:49 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.