Legal FAQs for Renters in New York

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.

This page was last updated on Aug 25th, 2023. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

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Problem with your Landlord?

Can I break my rental home lease in New York?

You may be able to break your lease if you can come to an agreement with your landlord.

You can talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to let you leave early. If they agree, be sure to get the agreement in writing.

Also, you can review your lease. It may have a part that lets you end the lease early in times of financial difficulty. If your lease has this kind of part, you might be able to break the lease (in some cases penalty-free).

Find legal help to get advice for your situation.

Behind on Rent?

Does immigration status matter for rent relief?

Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration. ****

Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?

Most Rental Assistance programs let landlords apply.

Either a renter or a landlord can start the application.

The landlord will have to fill in as much information they have about the amount of money needed, and the eligibility for the program. The tenant may have to fill in the rest of the information.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program about the steps to follow to apply for rent relief.

Am I eligible for rent relief?

Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.

You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.

You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.

You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to see if you are eligible.

Who can help me with rent that I owe?

If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.

Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.

Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.

Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?

What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in New York state?

A verbal conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way. Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself. Find local legal help here.

Do I have to leave my home in New York state by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date?

No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the eviction warning notice.

After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.

You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave. Even after a judge orders an eviction, you will have 14 days before a marshal or police officer will enforce that eviction by locking you out.

Find local legal help here.

My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in New York state. What should I do?

You do not have to leave your home yet.

In New York, your landlord must give you an official notice that they may bring you to court to evict you for not paying your rent. The notice should give you time to either pay your rent or prepare defenses against eviction.

This official notice must follow some rules to be valid. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.

These are New York’s requirements for an eviction notice:

  1. The notice must be written down.

  2. The notice must state that the tenant has 14 days to pay rent or move out of the rental unit.

  3. It has to have your full name (and names of other tenants) and address of the leased property.

  4. The notice must have the dates the overdue rent is for.

  5. It must define the property and use of leased property.

  6. It has to say approximately how much rent you owe (including past due amounts and total amount owed)

Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction. Find local legal help here.

My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe in New York state. What if I can't afford to pay it?

You still have time to reach out for rental assistance, and stop the eviction from moving forward.

Find local financial help at your New York Get Help page.

Be sure to let the local aid group know that you have received an eviction notice and what its deadline is. They may be able to help you pay the rent you owe, or work with your landlord to reduce the amount or put you on a payment plan.

How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction?

In New York, you have a minimum of 14 days between your landlord giving you a notice and them filing a lawsuit against you in court to evict you.

The notice should tell you how many days the landlord is giving you. If they are giving you less than 14 days, then you may be able to challenge it as illegal.

You may also pay the full amount owed at any time before the court date to dismiss the case.

Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't giving you the required time to make your payment. Find local legal help here.

Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?

What if there are unsafe conditions in my home, when my landlord is suing me for eviction for not paying rent?

In New York state, you have a couple of defenses available to you that could reduce the amount of rent you owe. A landlord must keep the property in a safe condition, and if they don’t they are violating the Warranty of Habitability. There may also be city and town-specific code violations that you may raise as part of your defense. Find legal help here.

Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Petition or Notice of Petition in New York state?

In New York, you are required to respond to the eviction lawsuit, if you want to avoid the eviction. If the tenant fails to appear, the judge will declare a default judgment and give the tenant 5 days to vacate the premises.

The tenant’s Answer can be given verbally in court, or it can be written and sent to the court at least 3 days before the scheduled hearing date.

Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. Find legal help here.

Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in New York state?

You can come to an agreement with your landlord outside of court, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed.

You can work with your landlord to make an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.

Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.

Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.

You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed. Find legal help here.

My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in New York state. What should I do?

You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit before it even gets to the issue of rent. In New York, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:

  1. Only certain people can give you a Notice of Petition and a Petition. The landlord can not give you these papers. They must be served by a professional process server or another adult who has not already served on behalf of the landlord 5 times in one 1 year.

  2. They must be served between 10 and 17 days before the hearing date.

  3. They must be served upon you either by:

    1. Serving (giving them to) you personally;

    2. Serving someone who lives or works in your home; or

    3. Leaving a copy at your home.

    4. If your landlord chooses the 2nd or 3rd method, they must also try to serve you personally before mailing you a copy of the petition by both First Class and Certified Mail.

  4. You must be served with both of these papers at least 10 days before the court date. The court date can’t be more than 17 days after you are served.

Even if the landlord did not serve you properly, you must still go to court to make those arguments.

You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.

Find legal help here.

Emergency Protections during COVID

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me?

Contact a legal help organization to help defend yourself.

If you get a notice of eviction, then complete a Hardship Declaration. Send it to the Marshal, to the court, and to the landlord. Reach out to legal aid for more help with this protection.

It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without first going to court and getting an eviction order. To remove you from your home, a landlord must take you to court by filing an eviction lawsuit, win the case, and getting an eviction order from the court. (link) Legal aid groups might be able to provide you with full representation, or other legal organizations can give you information or brief advice.

Find legal help to protect your rights.

What do the protections mean for New York renters?

The protections mean that after January 15, 2022 in New York state****:

  1. Your landlord may still give you a notice to quit.
  2. Your landlord could file an eviction claim in court against you.
  3. Courts will hold eviction trials.
  4. Courts will enforce eviction actions and may issue writs of eviction for you.
  5. Law enforcement can enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
What if I need repairs in New York during the COVID-19 emergency?

Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety. You can still get emergency repairs. The emergency may delay your landlord's ability to make repairs, but if they are urgent you should call your landlord to make the repairs as soon as possible. Emergency repairs could be for problems with:

  • Running water or hot water
  • Heat or air conditioning
  • Stove, refrigerator, or oven
  • Electricity
  • Bathroom use
  • Missing doors, locks, or windows
  • Pests If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter or email about the need for emergency repairs (and keep a copy of this communication). Reach out for legal help for additional guidance.
Can my utilities be shut off?

Since the emergency ended, New York renters may have utility shutoffs or late fee charges.

Earlier, renters had been protected from utility shut-offs during the emergency, based on an inability to pay.

Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.

Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. That is an illegal eviction. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.

Are there any special protections for New York state renters during the emergency?

New York eviction protections expired on January 15, 2022. Renters may be evicted again.

If you are worried about an eviction in New York, reaach out to legal aid as soon as possible.

Earlier Protections

New York state law had protected renters from evictions for COVID-19 financial hardships until January 15, 2022.

This protection was not automatic. Renters had to fill in a Hardship Declaration form and give it to their landlords or the courts to be protected. The Hardship Declaration could stop an eviction case from moving forward.

New York renters also had protections under the national CDC eviction moratorium. That protection is expired.

Are eviction cases still moving through New York state courts?

New York courts have resumed eviction court hearings.

Check with your local courts for more up-to-date information.

Can my landlord evict me in New York during the COVID-19 emergency?

After January 15, 2022, New York renters can be evicted from their homes for not paying their rent.

If you are in New York City and a city marshal incorrectly attempts to remove you from your home during the emergency period, you can report this activity to the NYC Department of Investigation, Bureau of City Marshals at (212) 825-5953.

If you are outside New York City and a law enforcement officer incorrectly attempts to remove you from your home, then you should call the Attorney General's office at 1-800-771-7755.

If you are facing an eviction, reach out for legal help to protect yourself.

Do I still have to pay rent in New York?

Yes, New York renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.

Your landlord cannot charge you late payments or penalties for missed rent during the emergency period.

Since protections ended on January 15, 2022, New York renters will have to pay back rent or face possible eviction.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Apply for Rental Assistance: If you need money to pay for housing costs like rent or utilities, you may be able to get help.

  • Communicate with your landlord: You can try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction.

  • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make, that are signed and dated. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.

  • Keep proof of COVID-19’s impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.

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