A Guide to Renting with Children in NYC
Renting in NYC is hard enough, but families who rent have a whole additional set of issues to worry about. From finding a home that big enough to fit a family to making enough to support everyone, NYC families are tough as nails and can think on their feet. Still, there are a few things that families need to be aware of when it comes to renting in the city. They have just as many rights as other tenants, and even a few that are catered specifically to them. So, what are these rights? How can parents keep their children safe in a rental building?
Family Status Discrimination
First and foremost, families are protected by Family Status anti-discrimination laws. This means that tenants cannot be denied a home based on their family status. Families of all kinds have to be treated the same as single people, childless couples, or a set of roommates when it comes to seeking a home. This protects any family with children under the age of 18 including parents who have adopted, legal guardians of children, foster parents, and even pregnant people. Family discrimination can take many forms including being forced to live on the first floor, surcharging parents with children, and trying to scare families away from a neighborhood by citing it as bad or inappropriate.
Once a family moves into a home, their family status still protects them from discrimination from landlords. Landlords cannot raise rents higher because of children, and they can’t force additional stipulations on family households that parentless tenants are exempt from. Families aren’t allowed to be evicted because of their children. All that said, landlords can reject applications or evict tenants for other reasons, like breaking the lease agreement or late rental payments. Families who feel they are the subject of discrimination should file a complaint with 311.
Many of the safety concerns facing children are addressed by apartment habitability laws, which means landlords are obligated to ensure homes are safe for their tenants. Still there are some major concerns to look out for, especially in older buildings. These safety concerns include:
Many people think that lead paint is a problem of the past, especially since the substance was outlawed in NYC in 1960. However, many older buildings, pre-war especially, still contain lead paint. Paint that is chipping off of walls and turning to dust is especially hazardous to children, and can lead to behavior and learning issues down the line.
This is why landlords are required to replace lead paint in a home where children under age six reside (A child under age six legally resides in a home if they spend 10 or more hours a week there. So children don’t technically have to live in the home for this law to apply). If the building was built before 1960, it’s generally assumed to have lead paint unless the landlord can prove that lead paint was removed or that current paint isn’t lead based. Landlords are responsible for making sure lead paint removal is done safely and are completely responsible for the cost of removal.
Open windows are hazards for everyone, especially children, with people getting hurt or dying every year in NYC. This is why window guards aren’t just important, they are mandatory in buildings with three or more apartments or in apartments where a child under the age of 10 resides. Again, landlords are responsible for installing these guards once you make a request. If a window guard isn’t installed after a request is made, and tenants have given their landlord’s reasonable time to fulfill said request, file a complaint with 311.
Fire and Carbon Monoxide Safety
While there aren’t laws specifically aimed at families, fires and carbon monoxide poisoning are still highly dangerous, and children can often be right in the center of these disasters. Building codes can curb many dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Parents should always be sure that carbon monoxide detectors are always functional, and that every bedroom has a window for ventilation purposes. These are standard rules that can help keep parents and children safe from harmful gas leaks.
Fire codes are also important to follow, but these are, once again, more of a responsibility for landlords. Apartment complexes always need to have functioning fire safety doors, functioning staircases for evacuations, and ensure that communal fire alarms are working. Families can make sure their homes are safe by keeping flammable liquids away from children, ensuring their smoke alarms are functioning, and by teaching kids fire safety at an early age. These steps are vital for keeping children safe in a rental complex. Parents, or any tenants, who feel as though their building violates building or fire codes should contact 311.
Parents Renting in a Condo or Co-op
Family Status laws still apply to people renting out of condos or co-ops. Lead paint is still required to be removed, window guards are still required to be installed, and building owners cannot discriminate against tenants simply for having children. The only major difference when it comes to renting in a condo or co-op is who to contact should one of these issues arise. Families living in condos should contact the condo owner for these issues while families renting in co-ops should contact the co-op board. In both cases, if nothing is done to rectify these issues, file a complaint with 311.
Families renting in NYC face all sorts of additional challenges. They need to find a home with enough space for children, in neighborhoods they can afford, while also paying extra attention to safety concerns inside of their home. It’s a daunting task, but the law is usually on the family’s side, and will protect families from many of the scary things facing renters on a daily basis. NYC is a tough town for anyone. But a tough town produces tough families, and those families can rest assured that their housing rights will be protected by the city.