How to Handle Disputes With your Landlord

By: Nicholas Adams Judge

Like most states in the Northeast, the rental law in New York usually places more importance on tenant's rights than the landlord's bottom line. While legislated tenant's rights extend throughout just about every part of renting and living in NYC apartments, there are a few key types of disputes between landlord and tenant that most often come up. Not understanding what to do can lead to overbearing or even well-intentioned landlords exploiting theirtenants. So, this article will tell you how to deal with problems that most often create conflict with landlords.

If an issue develops so much that legal action might be required, most complaints a renter would have are settled in the city's housing courts. If, however, the issue involves discrimination - including on the basis of sexual orientation - than a tenant or apartment seeker should contactNew York City's Human Rights Commission. Aggrieved parties have the right to collect substantial damages.

Otherwise, the single most powerful and practical tool that tenants have to get New York City landlords - who are generally known to love the subtle art of procrastination - to do something is their ability to withhold rent. Since this sometimes leads to legal confrontation, tenants should make sure to document everything in writing.

Heating, for instance, is one of the most common problems with NYC apartments. If the heat is not kept at 68 degrees Fahrenheit or above during the winter, or

if the heat is broken, then tenants always have the right to withhold the portion of that month's rent for which the heat was not working. However, the only legal way to document the actual amount of time that the rent was not working is to notify your landlord by mail the same day you call him, and keep a copy for your files or, more realistically, the least dusty part of your desk. Then, when the heat comes back on, notify him in writing of the time that it didn't work and that you will be withholding rent during that time.

Sometimes, landlords will bluster at this like an angry peacock. While it is, sadly, important to be civil during this type of conversation, remember that the law is on your side, and that if he sues you for non-payment of rent, you can counter-sue for breach of warranty, thus potentially putting your entire year's rent back in your pockets. It is often most effective to say, as politely and gently as possible, that this isn't a discussion about whether or not you are paying rent, it is simply you informing him of the amount of rent you will withhold.

Alternatively, if a landlord doesn't fix something in a timely fashion, you can order the repairs yourself, and then deduct the bill - make sure

to keep the receipt - from your rent.

The same thing that is true for heat is true for infestations, broken hot water and all other serious problems.

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