What can I do if my landlord refuses to make repairs in my home?
Authored By: Nassau Suffolk Law Services
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Any landlord who rents you a place to live must keep it in safe and decent condition. In the law, this obligation is called the Warranty of Habitability. You can read more about your rights under this law in this PDF, The Tenants' Rights Guide.
Your landlord must keep your home in good repair even if you don't have a lease. It may help to discuss your tenant rights with your landlord.
There are other options too. If the landlord does not fix the problem, your next steps can be:
Option A. Call the housing or building inspector, sometimes called the code enforcement officer.
Check with your city, village, or town clerk or the county health department to see who can do an inspection. The inspector will visit and report any violations of the housing code on a “Notice and Order.”
A copy of the notice will be sent to the landlord approximately 5-7 days after the inspection. The notice will say how soon the problems must be fixed. You may not receive a copy of the notice, but you can pick up a copy at the city, village or town hall.
Even if the landlord ignores it, it is best to get the inspection done to serve as proof of the problems that need to be fixed.
Federally subsidized tenants can also contact the PHA to inspect. Public Housing tenants whose landlord is the PHA can contact HUD.
Rent stabilized tenants in Nassau County can contact NYSHCR, who may issue a rent reduction order until necessary repairs are made.
Option B. File an action in the District Court, under the District Court Act
You will need to be prepared to prove that conditions exist and that the landlord is responsible.
Option C. You could also choose to make the repairs yourself or hire someone to do it.
This is an extreme action to take that is risky and rarely recommended (perhaps only in case of emergency; for example, your landlord intentionally shut off a utility service they are responsible for under rental agreement).
If you take this path, you must:
(1) Write to your landlord. Give a final deadline to fix the problems and explain that otherwise you will hire someone to do it and the cost should be deducted from next month’s rent payment.
(2) Keep a copy of the letters and receipts for all parts or labor.
(3) Make sure the costs are reasonable.
(4) Include a letter explaining the work you did when you mail next month's rent. Explain why you made the change and how much it cost. Make sure to send copies of the receipts and keep the originals in case you need to show them to a judge if the landlord tries to evict you.
Option D. In case of serious problems affecting your health and safety, you may choose to withhold rent.
If possible, talk to a lawyer or organization focusing on housing issues before taking this step and put the rent money aside. Contact Nassau Suffolk Law Services to see if you qualify for free legal help.