What makes an apartment illegal in NY?

Asked By: Bryant Braentel | Last Updated: 4th April, 2020
Category: real estate real estate renting and leasing
4.1/5 (63 Views . 26 Votes)
New York City zones buildings to be residential or commercial and there are laws dictating specifications for bedroom size, heat, gas, water, and sanitation issues. So what makes an apartment illegal? For starters, the apartment is illegal if the space is used in a manner beyond what the building permit specifies.

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Also to know is, how do I know if my apartment is illegal?

Besides that, there are a few signs you can look out for to identify whether or not your rental unit is illegal:

  1. No separate utility bills.
  2. Low ceiling height.
  3. No second means of egress.
  4. No address or way of receiving mail.
  5. Other uninhabitable conditions.

Additionally, is my apartment Legal NYC? New York City zones buildings to be residential or commercial and there are laws dictating specifications for bedroom size, heat, gas, water, and sanitation issues. So what makes an apartment illegal? For starters, the apartment is illegal if the space is used in a manner beyond what the building permit specifies.

Similarly, you may ask, what happens if my apartment is illegal?

When an apartment is illegal, the space should not be used to live in, a landlord or owner can't collect rent. So, when you are being sued for failing to pay rent, it is a defense to the nonpayment case if you live in an illegal apartment. Basement Apartments: not all basement apartments are illegal.

What makes a basement apartment illegal in NYC?

In NYC, basements and cellars are not the same thing, and the difference determines a legal dwelling. According to the Department of Housing, Preservation & Development, a basement has at least half of its height above curb level, while a cellar has less than half.

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How can I ruin my landlord's life?

7 Steps for Fighting – and Beating – a Bad Landlord
  1. Start a written record. The problems with my landlord started almost immediately after I moved in.
  2. Check your lease agreement. If your landlord agreed to something in your lease, he has to follow it.
  3. Send written requests.
  4. Decide if you have a case.
  5. Seek legal assistance.
  6. File a civil lawsuit.
  7. Fight discrimination.

What is the fine for an illegal apartment?

Landlords face fines of up to $15,000 if they are caught renting illegal space.

Can a landlord evict you from an illegal apartment?

If your apartment is illegal, you are not required to pay any rent, but your landlord can still evict you (not for nonpayment of rent, but to cure the illegality of your residing in an illegal apartment).

Is a lease valid in an illegal apartment?

Yes. A signed lease is valid and binding in court. An illegal rental unit is also subject to fines if reported and found to be "illegal". Courts do not enforce illegal contracts.

What a landlord can and Cannot do?


A landlord cannot refuse to rent to persons in a protected class. A landlord cannot provide different services or facilities to tenants in a protected class or require a larger deposit, or treat late rental payments differently. A landlord cannot end a tenancy for a discriminatory reason. A landlord cannot harass you.

How do you know if a basement apartment is legal?

In short, if a listing indicates that a property has a retrofit basement apartment, it must meet municipal bylaw requirements, have a Certificate of Compliance to verify that it has passed fire and electrical inspections, and be registered with Municipal Property Standards.

Does an apartment have to have two exits?

Any bedroom must have two forms of exit to the exterior of the property. This is so that if one exit is blocked by a fire or other hazard, the individual still has another way to get out of the property.

Do illegal tenants have rights?

Usually, a tenant of an illegal unit has the same rights as a tenant renting a legal unit, including rent control in some situations. Also, if a tenant needs repairs to the unit and her request is ignored by the landlord, the tenant may be able to make the repairs herself and receive an appropriate rent reduction.

Can I sue my landlord for back rent?

Typically, tenants sue their former landlords after they've moved out, usually over security deposits or another financial matter. However, sometimes you have to file a civil suit to get the attention of your current landlord. For example, if your landlord won't make repairs, you may need to sue.

How much does it cost to legalize a basement?


One of the most common requirements to legalize a basement as a separate dwelling unit is installing a fire prevention sprinkler system. The cost of the installation and approvals can easily cost well above $10,000.

How do you evict a tenant from a basement apartment?

If the apartment they are living in is illegal, give told them to leave and won't, then your best bet would be to report yourself to your local Bylaws Zoning office. An inspector will come out, deem the unit as illegal, fine you, and then legally evict the tenants.

Can a landlord break a lease in New York?

A landlord cannot end a tenancy early without cause. If the landlord does not have cause for an eviction case, then the landlord must wait until the end of the lease or rental period before asking or expecting the tenant to move. The landlord may still need to give the tenant notice, though.

What are the requirements for a legal basement apartment?

As a rule, a basement apartment's minimum ceiling height must be 6 feet 5 inches; its entrance door must be at least 32 inches by 78 inches; bathrooms require either a window or an exhaust fan; and if there is a parking spot for one of the units, there must also be a parking spot for the other unit.

Is it illegal to live in the basement?

It is not illegal to live in a basement. Basement suites which are for rent must have certain minimum requirements, such as at least one (in some places, two) exit doors, a minimum window size for bedroom egress windows, minimum ceiling height, fire resistant walls, etc.

How does rent control work in New York?


In New York City, rent control is based on the Maximum Base Rent system. A maximum allowable rent is established for each unit. Every two years, the landlord may increase the rent up to 7.5% (as of 2012) until the Maximum Base Rent is reached. Owners must apply for the Maximum Base Rent system for the tenants.

Is it legal to rent an apartment without a kitchen?

The legality of renting units without kitchen access or cooking abilities appears to vary among jurisdictions. No federal law enforced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires rental units to have kitchens, a spokesperson for the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office told SFGATE.

What is an illegal dwelling?

Illegal units are dwellings that do not have the required Certificate of Occupancy, which is a document that certifies that a residential building complies with all state and local building codes and is safe to live in. An illegal unit is also sometimes referred to as unwarranted, non-conforming, or unpermitted.