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Know your rights as a tenant

If you live in a New York City apartment, loft or other rental property, you may have your own "landlord horror stories." While not every landlord is a nightmare to deal with, there are some landlords who jeopardize their tenants' safety by failing to maintain the premises.

Because decent, affordable housing is at such a premium in the Big Apple, many tenants feel like they have to put up with a negligent landlord or building super. But it's vital that tenants realize that they have rights in the matter.

There are many ways that landlords can be remiss in their duties to maintain the safety of the premises. Maybe they turn a blind eye to drug dealers in the building or don't have accessible fire escapes installed. Another concern is elevator maintenance and repairs. If the landlord doesn't get regular inspections done on all of the elevators and/or fails to use certified repair persons to fix any that break, it could be tragic.

Tenant safety should always be foremost. Doors should securely lock on each apartment unit, stairways and halls should be well-lit and free of trash or debris that could present tripping hazards. Entrance areas should be kept shoveled and de-iced in the winter and any hedges or shrubbery near the doors should be kept trimmed low enough that criminals can't hide behind them.

These are just some of the obligations of a landlord to the tenants. Tenants should have a way to report maintenance issues and the problems should be resolved within a reasonable period of time. Tenants have some responsibilities, like the duty to inform their landlords, property managers or maintenance crews about potential hazards in their apartments or their buildings' common areas.

But some tenants learn that their notifications and complaints fall on deaf ears. Repairs either don't get made at all or are shabbily done and don't fix the problems. A tenant or a tenants' guest could wind up injured as a result.

If a landlord or building manager's negligence in maintaining the property was the cause of injuries to you or your children, you have options available to you for seeking recourse. You first need to initiate the claims process with the insurer of the property. Should that not resolve the matter to your satisfaction, a New York City attorney may be able to file a premise liability lawsuit on your behalf.

Source: FindLaw, "Tenant Safety and Landlord Liability," accessed March 23, 2018

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