My Landlord Won’t Fix Anything - What Should I Do?

When there’s an issue in your apartment, it can impact the quality of your daily life. If your landlord won’t make the necessary repairs, it can be an incredibly frustrating experience. So what should you do? In this blog, the Outerbridge Law team will walk you through some steps you can take to making sure those vital repairs are being made. Let’s get started!

Send A Letter To Your Landlord

Even if you have already spoken to your landlord, managing agent, or building superintendent, it is important to put your request for repairs in writing. When fighting for repairs, keeping good records is vital.

Your letter should list all of the problems in your apartment and the common areas of the building. You should also include the history of all your previous attempts to get the problem solved. This includes who you have spoken to, what promises they may have made, and what was not done. If your apartment or the building needs numerous repairs, it is important that the letter includes everything that needs to be addressed.

If you are in a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment and plan to file a reduction in services complaint with NYS Homes and Community Renewal to get a rent freeze, it is required that you are able to prove that you wrote to your landlord and notified them of the problem. This letter must be sent by certified mail, and you must keep a copy of this letter along with the proof of mailing and receipt.

Be prepared to follow up with a complaint to the city or state housing agencies, or a court action. If your landlord does not respond to your letter, or does not make the necessary repairs, it is time to begin thinking about the next steps.

File A Complaint With Government Agencies

Filing a complaint with the city can be done by calling 311. Through 311, you are able to reach city departments responsible for enforcing the housing, buildings, and health codes, and ask for an inspection.

  • The Department of Housing, Preservation and Development enforces laws relating to housing maintenance (heat, hot water, lead paint, leaky ceilings, etc).

  • The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene deals with lead poisoning prevention, child window guard requirements, rodent and pest infestations, and some mold and asbestos conditions.

  • The Department of Buildings issues permits for new construction and alterations or renovation to existing buildings, inspects elevators, plumbing, and electrical systems, and responds to complaints about unsafe structures.

  • The Department of Environmental Protection handles complaints about noise and odors that may be produced by businesses such as restaurants.

When you determine which department would best handle your issue, give them a call.

What If I’m in a Rent-Stabilized Apartment?

If you are in a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment, you can file a complaint with the state housing agency, the Department of Homes and Community Renewal. These complaints can be building-wide, or specific to your individual apartment.

Individual tenants should use the HCR’s form RA-81, “Application For A Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreased Service(s) - Individual Apartment, while tenant groups should use the form RA-84, “Application For A Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreased Building-Wide Service(s).” The HCR has the power to order a rent reduction or a rent freeze for rent regulated apartments.

If the issue at hand is no heat or water, you can file once you have a copy of a violation report from a city agency. For other issues, you must first write a letter to your landlord explaining the issue. Once 10 days, but no more than 60 days, have passed, if the problem has not been fixed, you can file with HCR.

It is important to note that while rent reductions or rent freezes may provide an incentive for your landlord to make repairs and solve problems, the HCR is not allowed to force repairs to be made, and the HCR tends to move slowly. Therefore, it’s advisable to file a rent reduction as well as take other steps such as suing your landlord in an HP Action for repairs and services—requesting a rent reduction from HCR does not prevent you from also pursuing other options.

What Happens After Filing A Complaint With A City Agency?

When tenants file complaints with city agencies, the agency sends an inspector and levies fines against landlords for violations that are not fixed. However, tenants must be persistent to get an inspection and are also encouraged to take additional steps in order to force their landlords to make the repairs, such as taking them to court.

Once a violation is issued, your landlord is given a time frame to correct the violation based on the severity of the condition. However, the city often does not do proper follow ups, which leads to many landlords ignoring violations. If this happens, you are able to sue your landlord for repairs and services in Housing Court, in a case called an HP Action.

Suing Your Landlord in Housing Court

Tenants are able to start a lawsuit against their landlord, either individually or as a group of tenants from the same building, based on their landlord’s inability to make repairs or provide essential services. This process is fairly simple and typically has a good chance of success.

Start a Housing Part Action

By going to the Housing Court in your respective borough and asking for paperwork to start a Housing Part Action, you can begin the lawsuit process. Help filling out the forms can be found at the clerks’ window, the Court Help Center, or Housing Court Answers.

There is a fee for starting a case, however if you have a low income, you can request that this fee be waived. Once the forms are filed with the clerk, you will be given a court date as well as an inspection date. You will serve your landlord and the city with a copy of the papers. Be sure that you are home on the date of the inspection and that you return to court on the date and time specified, or your case will not be successful.

Collect and Prepare Evidence

In order to prepare for your court date, print out a list of the violations for your building and apartment and take pictures of any violations that can be seen. On the date of your hearing, provide the court with the following:

  • Letters

  • Proof of mailing

  • Photos

  • Heat logs

  • Notices from your landlord

  • Witnesses, if necessary

The majority of Housing Part Actions end with the landlord signing an order to correct the violations that are listed on the inspection report and an arrangement for access dates. If your landlord does not appear on the access dates or does not complete repairs, you can return to court and file an Order to Show Cause in order to ask for a new court date in the case.

In extreme cases where the landlord repeatedly ignores court orders, tenants can request that the judge orders HPD to do the necessary repairs and bill the landlord.

Other Common Apartment Repair FAQS

While contacting a city agency or filing a lawsuit can be an effective way to get repairs made by an unresponsive landlord, they might not always be the best options. Additionally, you might be wondering if there are simpler ways to get repairs made. Let’s take a look at some common rental repair questions:

Can I Make The Repairs and Deduct The Cost From My Rent?

New York City does not have an automatic repair and deduct procedure. This means that if you pay for a repair and deduct it from your rent, you risk being sued by your landlord in an eviction case for nonpayment of rent. You also risk being sued for money or eviction if the work causes damages to the property or if your landlord claims that the work was unauthorized and in violation of your lease.

There must first be reasonable effort to get your landlord to make the repairs. If you then decide to repair and deduct, you must protect yourself by keeping proof of the condition needing repair and your efforts to get your landlord to fix the issue. Be sure to also add all relevant details, such as health concerns for household members. If you are taken to court by your landlord, you will need to show that you acted reasonably.

Can You Withhold Rent If You Are Not Getting Repairs?

You have a right by law to withhold rent, and you may also be entitled to a reduction in the amount of rent owed if you are able to document that you did not get repairs or essential services. However, withholding rent can have serious consequences, such as the following:

  • Eviction

  • Your name will show up on tenant screening reports

  • Damage to your credit score

It is advised that you always set aside the money that would be spent on rent, and always get expert advice before deciding to withhold rent.

Outerbridge Law Fights for Tenants

Getting repairs can be a hassle, but when a landlord won’t make reasonable or necessary repairs, it’s unacceptable. If your landlord isn’t making appropriate repairs and is neglecting your apartment, contact Outerbridge Law.

Our experienced team can fight for your rights and help ensure that your home is a safe and healthy space. To discuss your case in more detail, contact our team today.