How Long Does A Landlord Have To Make Repairs?

Written by Cate Carrejo
Updated 12/16/2019

It’s annoying enough when something breaks in your apartment, but often dealing with building management to try and get the issue resolved can be even more frustrating than the problem you started with. You have rights when it comes to how long your landlord has to make repairs, so if you feel you’ve already waited long enough, you might be able to take action immediately. 

Step 1: Make Sure Your Repairs Are Covered

The first legal question at hand here is whether the repairs you need are considered “normal wear and tear.” Let’s say you’ve lived in your apartment for two years, your toilet hasn’t been maintained, and it starts to leak - that’s normal, and your landlord is responsible for the repair. If a hole somehow ends up in your drywall after a party, though, you can still get your landlord to do the repairs, but you’re on the hook for the cost and you’ll have to work around their schedule. 

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Step 2: Wait A “Reasonable” Amount of Time After Notifying Your Landlord About The Repairs

So you’ve notified your landlord about your leaking toilet using JustFix.nyc’s free Letter of Complaint tool. Now a week has gone by with no plumbers in sight. How long is long enough to wait before you can call someone about it?

According to the New York Attorney General’s Office Tenants’ Rights Guide, landlords have to complete repairs “within a reasonable time period.” That language is intentionally vague because the time required can “vary depending upon the severity of the repairs.” It’s meant to be a common-sense measure. If it’s gotten to the point that you’re looking up resources on your legal options, there’s a good chance your repairs have gone outside that reasonable time period.

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Step 3: File A Complaint

At that point, you’ll need to file a complaint with the city either by calling 311 or visiting 311ONLINE. You’ll also need to leave a method of contact for the inspectors at Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) so they can confirm with you if the issue was resolved after they notify your landlord of the complaint. The call operators and online form of 311 will take that information down for you.

The threat of a violation and financial penalty is often enough to scare landlords into fixing the problem, but the court may still need to get involved if the building manager won’t comply. If HPD contacts you and your issue still hasn’t been resolved, a code inspector from HPD will come to independently verify the issue. This can result in a written violation, which notifies the building owner that they have a certain amount of time to complete the repairs, depending on the work that needs to be done. There are several classes of violations, indicating the level of seriousness, and the time frame allotted for the violation to be resolved:

  • CLASS A (non-hazardous) - 90 days

  • CLASS B (hazardous) - 30 days

  • CLASS C (lead-based paint) - 21 days

  • CLASS C (window guards) - 21 days

  • CLASS C (heat or hot water) - immediately

  • CLASS C (all other types) - 24 hours

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Step 4: Take Action

If the landlord still won’t take care of the problem after their allotted time, your next step is to either pay for the repair yourself (be sure to keep and take pictures of all receipts) and deduct the cost from your rent – or you could just stop paying rent altogether. If you choose the second option, it’s crucial to set that money aside and save it in case you need to make up those payments once the issue is resolved.

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Step 5: Use JustFix.nyc to document your issues and take legal action

You already know that just because the law requires your landlord to do something doesn’t mean they’ll do it. If they don’t respond to your request—or if the repairs they make don’t fix the problem—send them a formal letter of complaint. If that doesn’t work, you can take legal action against them in Housing Court.

Whatever course of action you have to take, don’t forget to keep good records of all relevant communications or payments in case you need them for a future legal case. The best way to protect yourself as a renter is to always have clear communication and solid documentation.

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Want to take action?

Send a free letter of complaint

Our tool will create a formal letter of complaint for you—and will send it to your landlord via certified mail, at zero cost to you.

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If sending a letter of complaint doesn’t work, use our tool to walk through the steps to take legal action against your landlord in Housing Court.

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Learn more about your landlord’s responsibility to make repairs

Check out this fact sheet on required and essential services that your landlord is responsible for in your apartment, supplied by the New York State Governor’s office. 

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