Protect Yourself Against False Claims When Emergency Access Needed

April 30, 2013
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As your tenants finalize travel plans for the spring and summer, you may find yourself needing immediate access to an apartment for emergency repairs. A common dispute between owners and tenants involves the conflict between your right to enter an apartment and your tenant's right to privacy. Fortunately, rent stabilization and rent control laws give owners a right of entry under certain conditions. Although you have the right to enter an apartment in an emergency, you should implement some safeguards to protect yourself from false theft and privacy invasion claims from problem tenants.

New York City's “Owner's Right of Access” law, found in Sec. 27-2008 of the Administrative Code, prohibits tenants from refusing to allow the owner or the owner's agent or employee to enter the tenant's apartment for the purpose of responding to emergencies, making repairs or improvements required by law or code, and inspecting the apartment to determine whether it complies with applicable laws and codes. Emergency situations are narrowly defined. “Emergency repairs” involve any repairs that are urgently needed to prevent injury or property damage. They may include such situations as gas leaks, leaking pipes or appliances, leaking roofs, and dangerous ceiling conditions.

In addition to having accurate contact information for your tenants, proper lease language, and witnesses present, you should also leave a letter explaining the nature of the emergency. For an example of such a letter, click here.