If you’re having a legal dispute with your landlord, there’s plenty of help available. In a perfect real estate world, all apartment buildings would be safe, happy places to live. Rents would always be a fair rate, and repairs would always be done well and quickly. (And the sun would always shine, and rainbows would weave between the skyscrapers…) But, believe it or not, the New York City rental world is not quite so perfect! In reality, renters often have disputes with their landlords that they have no idea how to solve. If you don’t know where to turn, these agencies and organizations focusing on tenants’ rights in NYC can help tackle your housing problems.

Federal and State Agencies

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD’s website offers information and PDFs about federally assisted housing, fair housing laws, rights of displaced tenants, and more.
  • New York State Attorney General’s Office: The office of the Attorney General, Letitia James, offers a variety of online resources about housing issues. Topics include low-income housing, rent stabilization, rent control, and source-of-income discrimination. There is also a guide explaining how to recover a security deposit in small-claims court.

City Agencies

  • Rent Guidelines Board: The NYC Rent Guidelines Board provides a wealth of information for renters. This is a great place to look if you have questions regarding lease renewal rules, rent increases, and building repairs. There’s a fact sheet about the warranty of habitability — i.e., what makes an apartment legally fit to live in. One section spells out the city’s exact specifications for rent stabilization, including a list of buildings in each borough.
  • Department of Housing Preservation and Development: Established in 1978, this agency exists to “promote the quality and affordability of the city’s housing.” The HPD website has pages for Section 8 information, harassment and discrimination complaints, and more. Check the Learn About Safety section for info about heat and hot water requirements. The Know Your Rights section offers an FAQ, and an ABCs of Housing guide that is available in multiple languages.
  • Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit: The Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit connects New Yorkers to key city services and includes a Tenant Support Unit. In July 2023, the PEU launched a live operator Tenant Helpline, which tenants can call to speak with dedicated Helpline staff and receive support for urgent housing crises. Just call 311 and ask for the Tenant Helpline.
  • Office of the Tenant Advocate: The city has had a dedicated Office of the Tenant Advocate since 2017. Check its site for resources about tenant rights in NYC, harassment, and how to file a complaint. There’s also an FAQ about tenant-protection requirements during construction work. It offers contact info as well, if you’d like to reach out with specific questions.
  • Human Resources Administration: By the year 2022, any city tenant facing eviction will have access to free legal services through this agency. The rollout of this service, part of the Universal Access to Legal Services law, is underway. This site explains who is currently eligible and provides resources for those not yet covered.

The Court System

  • New York City Housing Court: The city’s housing court system can also help you determine whether you qualify for free legal representation. If you don’t, its website suggests resources that can help you find a lawyer you can afford. It even offers tips on how to represent yourself in court, if you choose to. In addition, the housing court runs a volunteer lawyer program where tenants can get free advice from experienced lawyers who volunteer their time.
  • Metropolitan Council on Housing: The Met Council is a nonprofit organization that’s been fighting for safe, affordable housing since 1959. It offers a free hotline, walk-in legal clinics, and a comprehensive wealth of online information on tenants’ rights in NYC. It also hosts a weekly radio show, “Housing Notebook,” Wednesday evenings on WBAI 99.5 FM.
  • The Legal Aid Society: This advocacy group works to ensure that all New Yorkers have equal access to justice. It addresses housing and homelessness in addition to many other topics, and its website includes a useful Know Your Rights section. Here you will find detailed “What You Need to Know” items covering broken leases, repairs, succession rights for rent-stabilized apartments, and more. There’s even a glossary of legal terms to help users better understand their situation.
  • New York Legal Assistance Group: NYLAG defends tenants facing eviction or displacement and fights for safe and affordable housing. Tenants with housing issues can call its special phone line to speak with housing experts who can offer free legal services. It also holds in-person sessions in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens.
  • Housing Rights Initiative: HRI’s stated mission is “to protect the rights of tenants and preserve affordable housing against predatory landlords.” It investigates potential real estate fraud and has organized several class-action lawsuits in defense of tenant groups.
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