This page contains information and links to help tenants and owners with legal assistance, mediation services, as well as tenant’s rights and owner responsibilities.
Legal Assistance Resources
- NYC Dept. of Homeless Services (DHS) has information for tenants at-risk of being evicted from their apartment in both their Rent Issues and Rental Assistance sections of their website.
- DHS also offers information for adults and families seeking shelter, as well as information for people needing housing due to issues such as domestic violence. DHS also runs the Homebase program, which offers an extensive network of neighborhood-based services.
- LawHelp NY is a web site with links to free and affordable legal aid and information about your legal rights, courts, and more in New York and elsewhere.
- NYC’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) offers a “One Shot Deal” emergency assistance program that helps people who cannot meet an expense due to an unexpected situation or event. Additional information available from Housing Court Answers and Mobilization for Justice.
- HRA also offers rental assistance resources.
- Mobilization for Justice offers anti-eviction programs for low-income tenants, seniors and SRO residents. They also offer an array of information, including Fact Sheets in English, Spanish and Chinese.
- Coalition for the Homeless offers assistance for those being evicted; fleeing domestic violence; needing shelter (or dealing with problems in a shelter); and related issues.
- Tenants facing harassment by their landlords can obtain information about free or low-cost legal assistance on NYC’s Tenant Harassment Assistance page.
- The NYC Commission on Human Rights handles issues and complaints related to discrimination in housing.
To Find a Lawyer
- NYC’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) funds free legal representation for tenants facing eviction; harassment by landlords; and immigration legal issues.
- If you are low-income and/or cannot afford a lawyer, you may be eligible for free legal services (a free attorney). Organizations that offer help include:
- If you need a referral to a lawyer and you are not eligible for free legal services, contact the New York City Bar Association Legal Referral Service at 212-626-7373. The NYC Bar Association Legal Referral Service offers a lawyer or paralegal who will answer the phone and help you find an appropriate way to handle your legal problem.
They also offer free legal advice one evening a week on specific issues, including landlord-tenant matters, as well as a free advice hotline for low-income NYC residents. The number is 212-626-7383.
Tenants’s Rights Guide
The NYS Attorney General offers a tenant’s rights guide with information on a wide range of housing issues for both rent stabilized and unregulated housing.
Various organizations offer information to help tenants and owners file for, or prepare for, housing court. See the links below for more information.
- New York City Housing Court
- Also see: NYC Tenants: Questions and Answers about Housing Court
- Also see: NYC Landlords & Owners: Questions and Answers about Housing Court
- Also see: How to Prepare for a Landlord-Tenant Trial
- Also see: Cómo Prepararse Para Un Juicio Entre De Propietario E Inquilino
- Also see: Starting a HP Proceeding to Obtain Repairs
- Housing Court Answers
- New York City Bar Legal Referral Service
- NYC Housing Court offers a Volunteer Lawyers Program for Unrepresented Litigants. If you are not represented by an attorney and you need legal advice about a residential landlord-tenant law matter, the Housing Court’s Volunteer Lawyers Program may be of help.
- New York Civil Court offers services through their Help Center, with information online and in person at locations throughout the City.
- Housing Court Answers (formerly City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court) has Information Tables in Housing Court locations around the city, or you can call them Tuesday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm at (212) 962-4795.
- Information about eviction and the role of city marshals may be found in the NYC Department of Investigation Marshal Evictions FAQ.
Detailed information can be found in our Security Deposits FAQ.
According to the Housing Stability And Tenant Protections Act of 2019:
Within fourteen days after the tenant has vacated the premises, the landlord shall provide the tenant with an itemized statement indicating the basis for the amount of the deposit retained, if any, and shall return any remaining portion of the deposit to the tenant. If a landlord fails to provide the tenant with the statement and deposit within fourteen days, the landlord shall forfeit any right to retain any portion of the deposit.
However, it is unclear at this time if the aforementioned 14-day requirement applied to rent regulated tenants.
Ultimately, the return of your deposit would be decided by the NYS Attorney General or a Small Claims Court judge. If you feel you have exhausted attempts to get your deposit returned through your former landlord, you may wish to file a complaint, available in 3 versions:
You may also choose to file a claim in Small Claims Court. For more information on Small Claims Court in New York City, see the Small Claims Court section below.
Small Claims Court
The Civil Court of the City of New York has jurisdiction over civil cases involving amounts up to $25,000 and other civil matters referred to it by the Supreme Court. It includes a small claims part for informal dispositions of matters not exceeding $5,000 and a landlord and tenant/housing part for landlord-tenant matters of unlimited amounts and housing code violations. Information on Small Claims Court can be found on their website and in their Guide to Small Claims.
The Rent Guidelines Board receives many emails and calls about tenant-landlord disputes. Sometimes, tenants and landlords are too quick to file a complaint with a government agency or sue in court before trying to work with the other party. This can be unproductive for both sides. One solution to tenant-landlord disputes is mediation.
If you have a problem with your apartment, keep the following things in mind:
- Understand the law – Don’t automatically assume that the other party is at fault. As a tenant, you need to be aware of your responsibilities under the law; also keep in mind that landlords are only required to provide the services explicitly stated in your lease and under the housing laws. If your apartment is rent stabilized, you have additional rights and responsibilities.
- Communication is important – Make sure that your landlord knows about the problem and its level of severity. Remember, owners of rental buildings may have employees who fail to deliver messages and superintendents who may shirk their responsibilities. The landlord (or his/her managing agent) must know exactly what the problem is, how serious it is, and how it should be addressed.
- Proceed slowly – If your landlord or managing agent is not responsive, the best policy is to slowly escalate the level of your complaints. Don’t rush to file a complaint or a lawsuit. For a good example of this policy, see Broker Info.
- Try to solve the problem before filing a formal complaint – Before you file a complaint with a government agency or go to court, try to work things out with your landlord, or if this is impossible, try to find another route such as mediation. Legal solutions can be quite complicated, time-consuming, and potentially very expensive. One way of getting what you want and avoiding the hassles of Housing Court is mediation, where a neutral third party hears both sides of a disagreement and helps develop solutions that meet everybody’s needs. The following Community Mediation Centers provide free mediation services:
Remember, government agencies are often understaffed and overwhelmed by their caseloads; courts and lawyers can also be very expensive and time-consuming. Filing a complaint may not be the quickest or most satisfactory way to resolve your problem. Of course, if you have made reasonable efforts to resolve your problem and no progress has been made, complaints to an administrative agency or court proceedings may be necessary. Although inconvenient and time consuming, the law does ultimately resolve landlord/tenant disputes.
The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) offers a useful guide called the ABC’s of Housing, with information on owners’ and tenants’ rights and responsibilities in rental housing in NYC.