Rights of Tenants in New York to Withhold Rent or “Repair and Deduct”
Tenants in New York are legally entitled to rental property that is in excellent repair and complies with fundamental structural, health, and safety standards. In the event that a landlord neglects critical maintenance, such as a malfunctioning furnace or a leaking roof, you are entitled to the following significant legal protections:
- the authority to deduct rent pending the completion of restorations, and
- the right to “repair and deduct”—that is, to purchase a replacement part or item and do it yourself, or to employ a repairperson to fix a serious defect that renders a unit unfit—and deduct the cost from your rent.
What Justifies New York Tenants’ Reduced Rent Payments?
Prior to exercising the repair and deduct remedy or withholding rent, ensure that the situation warrants a reduced rent payment and that you abide by state legal obligations, such as providing your landlord with proper notice. Consult New York state law regarding the following (refer to resources below):
- the types of habitability issues and repairs that qualify for rent deductions or repair-and-deduct.
- the type of notice that must be provided to the landlord and the time limit within which the landlord is obligated to rectify the issue prior to rent withholding or utilizing the repair and deduct remedy.
- the maximum rent that can be withheld or deducted and the frequency with which a specific remedy can be utilized.
- safeguarding you against retaliatory actions from your landlord, such as a rent increase or termination notice, for exercising your lawful entitlement to reduced rent due to a habitability issue, and
- There may be additional prerequisites that must be met prior to the ability to withhold or deduct rent, such as the obligation to remit rent into an escrow account.
A Guide to Tenant Rights in New York
See ag.ny.gov for a comprehensive summary of landlord-tenant law in New York, including your rights to habitability.
State and local regulations in New York concerning rent deductibility, repair, and landlord retaliation
Refer to N.Y. Real Prop. Law section 235-b, N.Y. Mult. Dwell. Law section 302-a (which pertains to municipalities with populations of 400,000 or greater), N.Y. Mult. Res. Law section 305-a (which applies to municipalities with populations below 500,000 and all towns and villages), and Semans Family Ltd. Partnership v. Kennedy, 675 N.Y.S.2d 489 (N.Y. City Civ.Ct.1998) for state regulations concerning rent withholding.
Consult N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 235-b and Jangla Realty Co. v. Gravagna 447 N.Y.S.2d 338 (Civ. Ct., Queens County, 1981) for information regarding repair and deduction under state law.
Regarding state legislation that forbids landlord reprisals, see to N.Y. Real. Prop. Law Section 223-b.
It is crucial to review your local laws and processes, as is the case with many legal matters in New York. In particular, local regulations frequently deviate from state law in New York City and the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, and Westchester.
To locate and read statutes and court decisions, visit Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research department.
Additionally, see your local housing codes for any county or city regulations that pertain to the rights of tenants about repairs (particularly if you reside in a rental property subject to rent stabilization or regulation). Speak with the housing or building authority in your area. You can check your county or city website or give the office of your mayor or city manager a call to identify yours.