Under New York State Law, landlords and property owners must provide habitable and safe housing for their tenants. This includes keeping the premises free of pests and mold. If you are experiencing a problem with roaches or other pests in your rental unit, you should immediately notify your landlord or property manager. They are generally responsible for pest control in the rental unit.
It is not advisable to withhold rent right away, as this can lead to legal problems. Although the lawn does lean in your favor on the issue, I would start by asking them to send a pest control company to render a solution.
Failing that, you can consider paying for the pest control service yourself, sending the bill to your landlord and withholding the rent, but should have a conversation with them first before doing so.
What we cover
Is a roach infestation justification for withholding my rent in NYC?
Landlords and owners of residential buildings with three or more rental units are required to keep tenants’ apartments free of pests and mold. The appearance of roaches, mice, or rats can result in a class C violation of Local Law 55 of 2018.
It is important to note that withholding rent is generally not an effective or legal way to address a problem with pests in your rental unit. If you are experiencing a problem with pests such as roaches, it is recommended that you follow the proper procedures to address the issue with your landlord or through the appropriate authorities.
Rent withholding laws in NYC
In New York City, tenants can legally withhold their rent in case of a pest problem or anything violating the implied warranty of habitability.
While it is legal for tenants to withhold rent in New York, the law is not explicitly outlined in the New York State Law. The law does not clearly state that tenants have a right to withhold rent until their landlords resolve pest problems or make major repairs, but it does stop landlords from evicting tenants who withhold rent.
The process of rent withholding in NY is not as clearly laid out as in other states, but there are several rules tenants should follow.
1. Notify the landlord or property owner before withholding rent
Tenants must first notify their landlord in writing about the problem and allow a “reasonable” amount of time for the landlord to address the issue before withholding rent. What is reasonable depends on the exact facts of the case.
2. Keep records of the conditions in the apartment
It is also important for tenants to document the problem and their efforts to resolve it. This can include taking photos or videos of the roaches, keeping copies of any written communications with the landlord, and keeping track of any expenses related to the issue (such as the cost of purchasing pest control products).
3. Store the withheld rent until the issue is resolved
Tenants are advised to keep the withheld rent in a separate account until the landlord or court resolves the issue. This is because the court may decide that even though there is a breach of the warranty of habitability, it is not enough to eliminate the entire rent. So, you may be required to pay the whole or part of the rent, depending on the facts of the case.
To be safe, it is recommended to store the withheld rent in an escrow account until the issue is resolved.
How much money should I withhold?
If you decide to withhold rent, it is wise to withhold an amount that is in proportion to the inconvenience or issue.
According to the Department of Homes and Community Renewal, the deduction should be calculated by estimating the apartment’s value without the essential services. The amount is then subtracted from your actual rent.
What are the possible outcomes of withholding rent?
There are a few possible outcomes to withholding rent. These are:
- The landlord or property owner may fix the issue and ask you to reimburse the withheld rent. Your response is entirely up to you, and it can be fueled by the severity of the problem and how long the landlord took to fix the issue.
- The landlord may refuse to fix the problem. In this case, you can decide to cease paying the rent entirely, move out, or sue him.
- The landlord may terminate your lease or sue you for the unpaid rent.
You must be prepared for any outcome and follow the rent withholding laws to the letter. This will help your case once you get in front of a Housing Court judge. It is also wise to seek advice from a landlord-tenant lawyer.
What if the landlord refuses to fulfill their pest control responsibilities?
It is always recommended that tenants resolve issues with their landlords directly before taking more drastic measures, such as withholding rent. Suppose the issue cannot be resolved through communication with the landlord. In that case, tenants may want to consider seeking the help of a mediator or contacting a local housing agency for assistance.
If your landlord is unresponsive or unwilling to address the problem, you may be able to file a complaint with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). HPD is responsible for enforcing the city’s housing maintenance codes, which require landlords to maintain their properties and keep them mold and pest-free.
If HPD finds that your landlord does not comply with the housing maintenance codes, they may order the landlord to address the problem or impose a fine.
What about the “repair and deduct” option?
In New York City, the “repair and deduct” option allows tenants to repair and remedy any defects or conditions in their rental unit if the landlord has not adequately maintained the unit. This means that the tenant can withhold a portion of their rent to cover the cost of the exterminator, provided that they follow certain procedures.
To use the repair and deduct option, the tenant must:
- First, give the landlord written notice of the defects or conditions that must be repaired. The notice must include a description of the defects or conditions and the rent the tenant intends to withhold to cover the cost of the repairs.
- The tenant must also allow the landlord a reasonable opportunity to make the repairs.
Suppose the landlord or property owner does not make the necessary repairs within a reasonable time after receiving the notice. In that case, the tenant may proceed to make the repairs themselves or hire someone. The tenant can then deduct the cost of the repairs from their rent payment. However, the tenant cannot use the repair and deduct option to repair conditions caused by the tenant’s neglect or abuse.
NOTE: The repair and deduct option should only be used as a last resort after the tenant has tried other remedies, such as requesting that the landlord make the repairs or complaining to the appropriate authorities.
It is generally not advisable for a tenant to withhold rent without a valid legal justification, as it can lead to significant legal consequences and ultimately result in the tenant being evicted. If a tenant has concerns about the condition of their rental unit or other issues with their landlord, they should seek legal advice before taking any action.
How long does a landlord have to get rid of roaches in NYC?
Landlords are expected to take prompt action to address cockroach infestations, as these pests can pose a serious health hazard.
Roaches and other pests like mice and rats are under the Class C violation, and the landlord is given 21 days to rectify the problem.
Suppose the landlord fails to take appropriate action to exterminate the cockroaches. In that case, the tenant may be able to use the “repair and deduct” remedy to hire a pest control company to address the infestation and deduct the cost from their rent. The tenant can also sue the landlord for refusing to address the pest problem.