The work in my building is endless and overwhelming. Can I withhold the rent?

Q: We live in a penthouse apartment with a wraparound roof terrace in a tall skyscraper in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Two weeks ago, a maint...


Q: We live in a penthouse apartment with a wraparound roof terrace in a tall skyscraper in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Two weeks ago, a maintenance team arrived unexpectedly to erect a huge portico on the terrace to access the windows. below that need repairs. We have been told that the job will take a few days, but they are far from over. As the crews need access to our apartment to reach the terrace, they come and go at all hours, sometimes arriving before we are up, and hang around all day. While they are working we have no privacy unless we lower all the blinds and sit in the dark. Workers do not always wear masks and balked at my questions about their immunization status. Can we set limits?

A: A landlord has the right to reasonable access to a tenant’s apartment, with sufficient notice, to perform the necessary maintenance. Work on facades or windows would certainly fall into this category, according to Jennifer Rozen, the lawyer-manager of the Rozen Law Group in Manhattan.

“The Housing Maintenance Code gives landlords a lot of latitude in accessing apartments,” said Ms. Rozen.


But there are limits. Your apartment cannot be turned into a permanent transit area, and you certainly have the right to peace and quiet before you get up in the morning. You also have the right to set limits on masking during a pandemic, especially in light of the Omicron variant.

“You can certainly set some parameters,” Ms. Rozen said. “They can’t go in and out to the point where you’re essentially being kicked out in a constructive way.”

You are probably entitled to a reduction in rent for the weeks you are inconvenienced. Write a letter to the owner or hire a lawyer to write one on your behalf. In the letter, outline your demands: you want workers to stay on a schedule that works for you and your family; you want them to follow Covid safety precautions; and you want a reduction in rent for the inconvenience caused.

Tell the landlord that you will withhold the rent until a suitable deal is made, which will definitely catch their attention. Remind them that you are also motivated to do this job, as you would like to regain use of the patio as soon as possible.

You are in a strong position right now, as the moratorium on evictions is still in effect until January 15. Even if the evictions resume, the backlog will be huge, and you will be at the back of that line. “People are safer than they have ever been when it comes to withholding rent or denying access,” Rozen said.

With this insurance, you can hold out until your conditions are met.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The work in my building is endless and overwhelming. Can I withhold the rent?
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