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How to File a Complaint Against a New York Landlord

Dirck Kloosterman - New York Landlord Complaints - May 2, 2024

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    If you are a tenant in New York and are having a problem with your landlord, you may consider filing a complaint against them. In this article, we go over the different ways you can file a complaint against a landlord in New York.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to your landlord? Check out our complaint letter tool.

    Common Types of Complaints and Lawsuits Against Landlords

    Here are some common complaints people have against apartment complexes and landlords: 

    • The landlord violated the terms of the lease. 

    • The landlord breached the New York State’s Warranty of Habitability. The New York State’s Warranty of Habitability requires a landlord to keep a unit in a habitable condition at all times. 

    • The landlord or a member of the property management team is harassing the tenant. 

    • The landlord discriminated against a tenant based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, familial status, etc. 

    • The landlord or apartment complex refuses to make necessary repairs to the rental unit as outlined in the lease terms. 

    • The landlord refused to return the tenant’s security deposit after they moved out. 

    • The landlord has failed to provide sanitary conditions that keep the building clean and free of mold, mildew, pests, etc. For example, you can sue your landlord for a mice infestation. 

    If you rented a unit outside of New York, review our guides for other states.  

    Contact Your Landlord and Report a Complaint Directly

    For some disputes, it may be worth trying to communicate with your landlord directly.  For example, if you need your dishwasher replaced, you can voice your concerns via email or phone. 

    However, if your landlord ignores your informal requests, consider writing a formal demand letter to your landlord or complaint letter as this way, you can outline your requests in the letter, and notify your landlord that you will seek further action if the issue is not resolved.  

    Here are some other reasons why you should consider sending a demand letter to your landlord: 

    1. If you end up filing a lawsuit against your landlord, the judge in your case may ask you at your small claims hearing if you sent your landlord a demand letter before suing. By sending a written demand letter, there is a record of your attempt to resolve the problem out of court that you can demonstrate to the judge.

    2. A demand letter signals to your landlord that you are serious about the dispute and willing to take action to resolve the problem. They may agree to solve the problem without further escalation. 

    3. Many city and state agencies require proof that you tried to resolve the problem with the landlord on your own before filing a complaint. A demand letter would provide proof that you tried to resolve the problem on your own before escalating. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to your landlord? Check out our complaint letter tool.

    Here is a video on how our demand letter tool works:

    File a Complaint With NYC311

    If the rental is located in NYC, consider filing a complaint with NYC 311. NYC311 can provide several services for tenants who are looking to file a 311 landlord complaint. These services include: 

    • Apartment Maintenance Complaints: You can file an apartment maintenance complaint against your landlord online. Common apartment maintenance complaints include unsanitary conditions, such as a rat infestation, water leaks, broken doors and locks, no heat or hot water, etc. 

    • Maintenance Complaints in Entire Residential Building: You can file an entire building maintenance complaint against your landlord online. Common maintenance complaints for entire residential buildings include unsanitary conditions, such as excessive garbage, no water, safety issues, etc. 

    • NYCHA Public Housing Maintenance Complaint: NYC311 can help you report maintenance issues on New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property. NYCHA serves 528,105 New Yorkers by providing public housing to those eligible. NYCHA complaints include requests for repairs for an apartment and reporting maintenance issues for public spaces on the NYCHA property. 

    File a Complaint with the New York State Attorney General 

    The Office of the New York State Attorney General serves New York residents by investigating complaints filed by tenants against their landlords. Here is how to file a complaint with the New York Attorney General.  

    Common Complaints Tenants file with the Attorney General: 

    • Discrimination: For example, a landlord refuses to rent to you because of your race, religion, or sexual orientation. 

    • Deed Theft: For example, a landlord transfers your property into their own name without your consent. 

    • Harassment: For example, a landlord shows up at your apartment unannounced and makes you feel unsafe. 

    • Rent Security Deposits: For example, a landlord refuses to return your security deposit, despite you leaving the apartment in good condition when you moved out. Before filing a complaint with the attorney general for a failure to return your security deposit, review New York security deposit law and consider sending your landlord a demand letter. If your rental unit is not located in New York, read our 50-state guide to getting your security deposit back. 

    File a Complaint with NYC Housing Preservation and Development

    The New York City Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD) mission is to promote quality in the city’s housing. HPD provides several services for tenants looking to file a complaint against their landlord. You can schedule an appointment with HPD to discuss with a Code Enforcement inspector complaints, violations, mold or pest issues, or lead violations. 

    The HPD Complaint Process 

    1. Once a complaint has been filed HPD will attempt to contact your landlord to notify them of the complaint and warn that a violation may be issued if the condition is not corrected.

    2. HPD will call you back to verify the condition was corrected.

    3. If the condition is corrected, it will close the complaint. 

    4. If the condition was not corrected, the HPD will send a Code Enforcement inspector to investigate the reported condition. 

    5. Depending on the state of the condition, the inspector could potentially administer a violation against your landlord. 

    File a BBB Complaint Against Your Landlord

    The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a non-profit that serves as an intermediary between apartment complexes and consumers. 

    You will not find an individual landlord on the BBB, however, if you rented from a large apartment complex you are more likely to find them on the BBB. It is important to review the company’s BBB profile before filing a complaint to determine if they respond to BBB complaints, otherwise, you may be wasting your time.

    Why a landlord would respond to a BBB complaint: 

    • If the landlord company is accredited with the BBB and doesn’t respond to a BBB complaint, its accreditation may be revoked, and the complaint becomes part of its BBB profile. 

    • They understand that a BBB rating can be a significant determining factor when a prospective renter is deciding to rent with that landlord. 

    Learn how to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

    Consider Taking Your Landlord to Small Claims or Housing Court

    If your complaint against your landlord remains unresolved after sending a demand letter and filing a complaint, you can consider suing your landlord. Normally, the party responsible for resolving the dispute is your landlord, but in the case that your property manager or apartment complex is responsible you can also sue them.

    Suing your landlord while actively renting:

    If you are currently living in the apartment, you can sue your landlord in New York City Housing Court for unsafe living conditions. For example, if you need emergency repairs because of conditions that threaten your life, health, or safety, you can open a case called an HP proceeding at the court. If the judge believes the condition is an emergency, you will receive a hearing date within about a week of your request. 

    Suing your landlord after you move out:

    If you are no longer living in the apartment, but would still like to sue your previous landlord consider suing them in small claims court. You can sue your previous landlord for renting an illegal apartment and if you win your case, can may receive the rent you paid back. We have created a guide on how to sue in New York small claims and the statute of limitations on specific disputes in New York. If you rented a unit outside of New York, review our 50-state guide to small claims court.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a complaint letter to your landlord? Check out our complaint letter tool.


    Dirck Kloosterman

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Passionate about breaking down court processes in simple, easy-to-understand ways.

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