Wed. Sep 27th, 2023
    Dealing with Garbage and Hazards in Common Areas: A Tenant’s Guide

    Garbage left in common areas can attract rats and pose fire hazards, creating an unsafe living environment. However, getting landlords to address these issues can be challenging. In New York, habitability laws hold landlords responsible for maintaining safe and livable apartments and buildings. To address the problem, tenants can start by writing a letter to their landlord and management company, describing the conditions and issues caused by the junk. It is important to keep copies of the letter and any responses, as well as take photos as evidence of the problem. Contacting the city through the 311 hotline can lead to an inspection from the Department of Buildings or Housing Preservation and Development, which may issue a violation. However, landlords often disregard these citations due to the relatively minor consequences. In more extreme cases, the city may file a case in housing court. For market-rate tenants, filing a lawsuit can be effective but may come with the risk of retaliation from the landlord, such as non-renewal of the lease. Rent-stabilized tenants have greater protection from retaliation. To minimize risks, tenants can consider recruiting neighbors to file a lawsuit together, sharing legal fees and potentially lessening the impact of any retaliatory actions by the landlord.

    1. Habitability laws: Laws that require landlords to maintain safe and livable conditions in rental properties.
    2. Housing court: A court that handles disputes and legal cases related to housing and rental properties.
    3. Market-rate tenants: Tenants who rent properties at a rate determined by the current market conditions.
    4. Rent-stabilized tenants: Tenants who benefit from rent stabilization laws, which limit the amount of rent a landlord can charge and provide various protections.

    – Samuel J. Himmelstein, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan