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Have a problem with your NYC apartment, building, or block? Here’s how to try to get some help

Filing a complaint or service request directly with a city agency might get you some help.

Austin Havens-Bowen for Brick Underground/Flickr

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You’re probably spending more time at home and noticing problems that need fixing. Maybe these are issues that you didn’t have time for or might not have been on your radar before the pandemic, like the foul pet odor coming from your neighbor’s apartment, or a tree that’s been down on your block for what seems like ages. 

Calling 311 is one option to try to get help or at least get you pointed in the right direction. NYC 311 also has a tenants resource page on their website where you can file a complaint or service request with a city agency, which might be faster. Some of the issues that you can get help with might surprise you (think: dead animal removal or parking lot light shining into your apartment).

For most issues related to your apartment or building, you should contact your landlord or building management first. If they don’t respond or are unwilling to help, then you can try turning to the city. Keep in mind that NYC is facing massive budget cuts, so unless the issue is causing an imminent threat to you or your neighbors, it might take time to get a resolution. And if someone comes to inspect your apartment, you’ll have to social distance and wear a face mask. 

To make it a little easier, we’ve rounded up some of the common housing-related issues that you can get assistance with through 311’s site. 

Noisy neighbors

Most buildings have house rules related to noise, so if your neighbor is violating the rules, then you should reach out to your landlord first. But, if your noisy neighbors persist, even if it’s loud music or dragging furniture, you can report them to the city

Animal odor

Have a problems with odors from your neighbor’s apartment that may be caused by unsanitary pet conditions? You can file a complaint with the Department of Health and they will review it. DOH will primarily respond to issues that pose an imminent threat to the public. 

Apartment maintenance

Your landlord is required to maintain your rental apartment, but if they aren’t quick to fix an issue, or are refusing to, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for an issue in your apartment like mold or broken doors, in your building’s common areas, and building-wide issues like loss of utilities or a broken fire escape. If HPD does come to inspect your apartment, everyone present will have to wear face masks. 

Bed bugs in your apartment

If you find bed bugs in your apartment, you should report it to your landlord first. If they don’t resolve the issues, you can report bed bugs with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and they will come inspect your apartment with bed bug-sniffing dogs. If bed bugs are found, your landlord can be ticketed. 

Building construction

If you're experiencing a hazardous issue like the smell of gas because of nearby construction, you should call 911. You can file a complaint with the Department of Buildings if you think unauthorized construction is happening in your building, or if there is after-hours work, typically anything outside of 7 a.m. and 6 pm during weekdays. Some sites do have after-hours permits though.

Dead animal removal

Did you come across a dead bird or squirrel in your neighborhood? You can contact the Department of Sanitation to try to request removal of the dead animal from any public street or area. If there’s a dead animal on your building’s private property, it’s usually up to your building to properly remove it unless it’s suspected to have rabies. 

Bad drinking water

Many say that NYC has some of the best drinking water in the country, but you can file a service request if the water from your tap looks dirty or discolored and you can request general drinking water information if you’re concerned about your building’s water quality. 

Fallen tree or branch

Is your block littered with fallen trees or branches after a bad thunderstorm? If the city doesn’t come to remove those fallen trees or branches, you can request removal with the NYC Parks Department. 

Super isn’t available

All New York City residential buildings are required to have a super, and depending on the size of your building, a live-in super. If your building’s super isn’t available, you should contact your landlord or building management first. If they don’t resolve the issues, then you can file a report with HPD. 

Parking lot light shining into your apartment

If your apartment building is located next to a parking lot, and the light from the parking lot shines into your apartment or your building, you can file a service request with the city. The city doesn’t handle requests dealing with light coming from residential properties. 

Pests

If there are bed bugs, fleas, flies, roaches, mice, or other pests in your apartment building, the first step is to reach out to your landlord or building maintenance. If the issue persists, then you can report pests in your apartment and report pests in a public area of your building.

Smoking in your building

All New York City residential buildings are required to establish a smoking policy, but if your building does not have one in place, you can call 311 directly to file a complaint. Despite your building’s smoking policy, smoking in common areas like lobbies and halls in buildings with three or more units violates the Smoke Free Air Act. If someone in your building is smoking in your building’s common areas, you can file a report with the Department of Health. 

Trash or recycling storage issues

Putting in effort to recycle is important, but if your building doesn’t provide the proper storage, or your neighbor’s are improperly disposing of trash or recycling, it can make it seem worthless. If your building’s storage or recycling bins are missing or inadequate, or there is trash or recycling piling up in your building, you can file a service request with the city.