Taking On Your Landlord

Bennett Baumer Jun 3, 2006

Landlords take thousands of New York City tenants to housing court every year. But tenants can fight back by starting a tenant association to improve living conditions in their building and neighborhood, and even bring the landlord to court for repairs.


You have a right to form a tenant association. Talk to your neighbors to set them at ease and find out what your common problems are. Don’t be embarrassed if you have mice and roaches, others probably have them also. Post fliers, call a meeting and get a tenant organizer to come and offer guidance. Groups like Met Council on Housing (212) 979-6238 can help.


(1) Call Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) at 311. They will come and inspect your apartment, but the landlord does not have to make the repairs.

(2) For rent-regulated tenants (buildings with 6 or more units built between 1947- 1974), send a certified letter to the landlord detailing repairs to be made. Ten days later, file for rent reductions with the state housing agency, the Department of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). Note: DHCR is slow to move on behalf of tenants.

(3) Go on rent strike! Consult a tenant organizer and a lawyer before withholding rent building-wide to make sure your case is solid.

FIGHTING RENT INCREASES (Rent-regulated tenants) (

1) Testify before the Rent Guidelines Board and tell them why your landlord doesn’t need an increase.

(2) Call the DHCR (718) 739-6400 for a “rent history”. You might have a rent overcharge case based on fraudulent renovations among other things.

(3) Apply for a DHCR rent reduction based on lack of services and repairs.

(4) You’ll need a tenant organizer’s assistance to beat back major capital improvements and other schemes.


(1) Keep good records, get advice from tenant groups, hire a tenant lawyer (if feasible). If you’re eligible call Legal Aid at (888) 218-6947 or Legal Services (646) 442-3100.

(2) Keep an eye out for fraudulent claims of “interior demolitions” or “owner occupancy” evictions.

(3) People with HIV are entitled to housing. Call NYCAHN at (718) 802-9540 or City Wide Task Force on Housing Court (212) 962-4795.

Bennett Baumer is a tenant organizer for the Metropolitan Council on Housing (

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