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I accidentally left my gas stove on—twice. After neighbors complained, the landlord disconnected my stove. Now I'm worried my landlord won't renew my lease. I love the apartment and neighborhood, and I don't want to move. I haven't caused any other trouble and always pay my rent on time. How do I get him to renew my lease?
If you are a market-rate tenant, you may be facing an uphill battle.
"The landlord doesn't need a reason to refuse to renew your lease," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer with the firm Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph LLP who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations. "The landlord can refuse to renew for any reason, or no reason."
For rent-stabilized tenants, on the other hand, it's much more difficult to get the boot. Landlords can only remove stabilized tenants under specific circumstances, one of which is that a tenant is being a "nuisance." This covers issues like hoarding, creating excessive noise, using an apartment for illegal purposes, or damaging property.
But leaving the gas on once or twice would hardly qualify as a nuisance, Himmelstein says.
"Leaving the gas on is not uncommon," he says. "And it wouldn't be smart for a landlord to start a nuisance case, where they would have prove their case and convince the court that the conduct constituted a nuisance, which would probably drag on for months and would not likely result in an eviction. By the time it was resolved, the lease would be over anyway."
Of course, leaving the gas on can pose potential dangers to your neighbors, so it's understandable why your landlord would be concerned, Himmelstein adds. And if you're a market-rate tenant, what your landlord is far likelier to do than evict you is just wait until your lease expires, and then decline to renew it. You could certainly try to persuade him not to, but legally speaking, you don't have much recourse.
However, you may have the right to a rent abatement.
"It's illegal for the landlord to cut off the gas, because it's an essential service," Himmelstein says. "That gives the tenant a right to an abatement, usually in the range of 10-20 percent, and they can bring an HP action," a case you file against your landlord for not providing essential services.
You also may be able to simply hire a licensed plumber to turn the gas back on, unless the landlord turned it off at its source rather than just disconnected your stove. But in either case, you may have the chance to save a bit on rent before your lease is up.
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Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.