Your Options When An Appliance Breaks

Your Options When An Appliance Breaks

When an appliance breaks (refrigerator, stove, etc)

If an appliance provided by your landlord breaks or stops working, it is your landlord's responsibility to repair or replace that appliance.

For unregulated tenants (whose apartments are not rent-stabilized, rent controlled, or covered by government regulation) your landlord is responsible for the cost of repair or replacement, unless the request goes beyond repair or replacement with an equivalent unit (in which case it is a negotiation.)

If you live in a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment, you have the following options if the appliance cannot be repaired:

  • no rent increase for a used working appliance, or
  • a permanent rent increase for a new appliance

Alternately, you can offer to purchase and pay for a new appliance yourself, but you must first obtain written permission from your landlord. (Your landlord may refuse.)

The processes by which you can pursue these options are described in this information sheet.

Legal Disclaimer:

The information contained on this web page does not constitute legal advice and must not be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer qualified to give advice on legal issues pertaining to housing. For more, visit our page on Finding a lawyer.

This information pertains only to tenants living in New York City.

Many of your rights depend on the type of housing you live in or your type of tenancy. You may be subject to different laws and have different sets of rights than even neighbors in your own building. Learn which rights and responsibilities apply to you.

 

As a rent stabilized or rent controlled tenant, how can I avoid paying a rent increase for a replacement appliance (like a refrigerator or stove)?

As a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenant, you can avoid paying a rent increase for a replacement appliance (and avoid misunderstandings later on) by making a proper written request to your landlord.

Inform your landlord in writing that your appliance is broken. Explain in your letter that if the appliance cannot be repaired, you request a replacement of an equivalent, used appliance that is in good working order. Write that you do not agree to pay a rent increase or any other fees. Your landlord is required by law to honor this request. If you make this request and your landlord is unable in a timely manner to find a used appliance that is equivalent, he/she must provide a new appliance, and may not pass on the costs to you.

Photocopy your letter and keep a copy for your records. Then, send the letter to your landlord certified-mail, return receipt requested (this is important!). Verbal agreements are useless if there is a dispute later on. You may need proof of your written request, as well as proof that you mailed it.

SAMPLE LETTER:

July 18, 2012

Dear landlord,

I am writing to summarize the discussion I had with [you, the management office, the super] on [put in date of verbal request].

My [refrigerator, stove, or other applicance] recently stopped working properly and needs to be replaced. Please provide me a used [appliance] that is clean and in good working order as soon as possible, and which is equivalent to the model that I currently have.

Please note that I do not consent to any rent increases, fees, or other charges for this.

Please contact me as soon as possible to arrange a time to remove the broken model and install the replacement.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

 

If my landlord doesn't promptly replace my broken appliance, can I buy a new one and deduct it from my rent?

If you buy a new appliance and deduct the cost from your rent without permission from your landlord, your landlord can sue you in Housing Court in a nonpayment proceeding. If you are willing to go through that process, and the risk of appearing on tenant screening reports, you can do what is commonly called “repair and deduct.”

You must first make a reasonable effort to get your landlord to repair or replace the appliance. To protect yourself, you should keep copies of proof that the appliance needed replacement, and proof of all efforts to get your landlord to repair or replace the item, such as letters to your landlord (with proof of mailing from the post office) and logs of conversations with your landlord or super (jot down on a calendar when you called, who you spoke to and the agreement you reached). It is a good idea to get several quotes from appliance stores and, once the appliance is purchased, keep the receipt, proof of payment, and information about what happened to the old appliance.

If your landlord sues you in court, you will need to prove that you acted reasonably. For example: you reported the refrigerator broken and despite many attempts to get help from your landlord, you went three weeks without a refrigerator until finally buying one of your own. You should add any compelling details to a letter to your landlord explaining your decision, such as having medication that needs refrigeration every day.

 

As a rent stabilized or rent controlled tenant, I want a new appliance and am ok with paying a rent increase. How can I request this? How much will the rent increase be?

As a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled tenant, you may request that your landlord replace a broken appliance with a new one, and in doing so, you consent to a monthly increase in your rent. You can do this in a letter or a phone call. Many landlords are happy to do this if they can get the increase. Be sure to get in writing the agreement from your landlord. If your landlord does not consent, you do not have the right to discard his appliance and buy your own.

In buildings with 35 or fewer units, the increase will be 1/40th of the cost of the appliance per month, and in buildings of 36 or more units, the increase will be 1/60th. The increase will be permanently added to your monthly rent (i.e. it does not go away when the appliance is paid off, and it is compounded when computing rent increases.)

 

As an unregulated/market-rate tenant, what options to I have when an appliance breaks?

If you have a lease, read it carefully for any conditions you agreed to when you moved in. You must contact your landlord about repairing or replacing the appliance. It is your landlord’s responsibility to repair - or replace if repair is not possible - any appliances that came with the apartment. However, unregulated tenants usually have to negotiate with their landlords to get replacement appliances.

 

Can I buy my own replacement appliance?

You can offer to purchase and pay for a new appliance yourself, but your landlord may say no. Your landlord is not required to approve this type of request.

If your landlord agrees that you can buy a new appliance and dispose of the old one, make sure to put this agreement in writing and get it signed by your landlord. The agreement should clearly state:

  • that you have permission to buy and install a new appliance
  • that you have permission to dispose of the old appliance, and that you will not be charged for either the appliance or the disposal
  • that your landlord is still responsible for maintenance and replacement of the new appliance, if it breaks
  • an explanation of what happens upon move-out (Does your landlord keep the appliance? Do you take it with you? Will you be reimbursed?)

Tip: Get your landlord or superintendent to remove the old appliance and install your new one, and get him/her to sign that he/she did so. This is extra evidence that your landlord agreed to the arrangement.

If your landlord does not agree that you can buy your own replacement appliance, or will not give you permission in writing, you are running a number of risks if you go ahead and do it.

Your landlord may consider it to be a substantial violation of your lease if you remove an appliance without permission (even if it was defective) or if you bring in a new appliance (even if it is not a replacement) - and may start eviction proceedings against you on these grounds. Your landlord may also try to charge you for the cost of the old appliance - even if it was broken.

 

My landlord has still not replaced my broken appliance - and it has been many days. What can I do?

If you live in an apartment building, you can call 311 to complain to the city's code enforcement agency. If you are rent stabilized or rent controlled, you can also file a complaint with the state housing agency and ask for a rent decrease (to do this you must first send a letter to your landlord by certified mail, return receipt request telling him of the problem). [LINK TO DHCR http://nysdhcr.gov/Rent/FactSheets/orafac14.htm] If this fails, you can take your landlord to Housing Court in an HP Action. If you can afford to buy the appliance yourself, you might consider doing that but be sure you understand the risks (see above).

 

What if my landlord replaces my appliance with one that's inferior (smaller, fewer features) or indicates that he/she intends to do so?

If you are rent stabilized or rent controlled, you can file a complaint with the state housing agency (Homes & Community Renewal). You must first notify your landlord in writing with proof of receipt that the new appliance is smaller or has fewer features.

The HCR form you will need is: RA-81 Application For A Rent Reduction Based Upon Decreased Service(s) - Individual Apartment 

Direct links to related forms and information on HCR's website:
Form RA-81
HCR Fact Sheet #3: Required and Essential Services
HCH Fact Sheet #14: Rent Reductions for Decreased Services 

 

My landlord is charging me for the cost of a new appliance, even though I never agreed to a rent increase. What can I do?

If you are rent stabilized or rent controlled you can file a complaint of overcharge with with state housing agency (HCR). Obtain form RA-89 Tenant's Complaint of Rent and/or Other Specific Overcharges in Rent Stabilized Apartments.

 

Can I be reimbursed for extra expenses (such as ordering take-out food) when I was without a working stove or refrigerator?

If a basic appliance breaks, be sure to keep receipts for all the extra expenses caused by the broken appliance. You can ask your landlord to reimburse you. If your landlord refuses, you might be able to get the money back through a Small Claims Court action against your landlord. You will need to prove that the appliance stopped working and that you made reasonably attempts to get your landlord to repair or replace the appliance. You will also need receipts for all the money you are suing for. Do not count an a particular outcome in this type of a case. A judge may not agree that such expenses were necessary - or, a judge may award a reimbursement, but not one that is equivalent to the expenses you incurred.