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Does a tenant have options when a landlord doesn't make repairs?

New York City landlords have legally required repair and maintenance obligations for their rental properties. When landlords fail to make required repairs, and perhaps even refuse to do so, tenants may feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, tenants do have options of which they should be aware.

Tenants who live in privately-owned buildings may first wish to contact the building superintendent, property owner or managing agent to discuss the needed repairs. If the aforementioned person does not respond to a tenant's inquiry, it may be wise for a tenant to write a letter to the property owner and notify him or her of the existing problems, as well as request that the repairs be completed by a particular date. It is smart for a tenant to mail this letter via certified mail, and send it to the management company as well, making sure to keep a copy for his or her records. Subsequently, if a landlord still does not respond to a tenant's request, a tenant may opt to contact the property owner by phone or in person and notify him or her that he or she anticipates filing a complaint regarding the ignored repairs. It is always a good idea for a tenant to keep a record of his or her contact with a landlord.

When a landlord continues to ignore repair obligations, it may become necessary to file a formal complaint. Additionally, a tenant may opt to bring a legal case called an HP Action in Housing Court against the property owner. An HP action is designed to force a landlord to make legally required repairs.

These steps may seem overwhelming for a tenant. An attorney can help guide a tenant who has questions about his or her rights and a landlord's obligations through the process and provide much-needed assistance.

Source: nyc.gov, "Tenants' Rights and Responsibilities," accessed June 10, 2016

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