Off-Campus Housing Laws
The following information is made available to SUNY Plattsburgh students who are eligible to live-off campus.
This information outlines the requirements of the housing codes, steps to be taken for its enforcement and recommended procedures for getting needed repairs completed. A complete copy of the housing code may be purchased at the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall.
Know Your Rights
Housing code in the City of Plattsburgh applies to all rental units regardless of size or age. The purpose of a housing code is to establish specific requirements governing the condition, occupancy and maintenance of residential premises. The code sets minimum standards, so it is just one step toward ensuring decent housing.
Housing Inspectors Office & Apartment Inspection
The best way to avoid housing problems is by knowing the condition of the apartment before you move in and also by knowing what to do if the conditions are not satisfactory. You can receive this information by calling the Plattsburgh building inspector’s office at 518-563-7707.
By giving the inspector the address of your apartment, he or she can check the file on previous inspections and relay that information to you. If the apartment hasn't previously been inspected, the building inspector can make an appointment to inspect it.
Note: All apartments included in the Off-Campus Housing Listing published by the housing and residence life office have been inspected within the past 12 months.
Filing a Complaint
If you believe certain code violations exist you can file a complaint by merely calling the Building Inspector's Office at 518-563-7707. The building inspector will generally come quickly and file an inspection report which becomes a matter of public record. A landlord cannot prevent an inspection and is usually not called before the inspection is made.
If violations to the housing code do exist, your landlord will be notified and give a time to make the necessary improvement. A re-inspection should be scheduled at the end of that period. However, any violation that requires exterior repairs may be postponed until spring.
Things to Remember When Filing a Complaint
Make sure you are at your apartment when the inspector comes so you can point out the suspected violations. If you can't be at your apartment, make arrangements with your roommate or have a friend or neighbor show the inspector the violations. Make sure the inspector sees and lists separately all violations. If you feel all the violations weren't listed you have a right to view a copy of the report. In fact, it's a good idea to get a copy of the report for your records whether you have doubts or not. Make a note of the day the inspections occurred. If nothing happens call the building inspector’s office again and re-register your complaint.
The building inspector will re-inspect the unit on the scheduled date. If the violation hasn’t been corrected and your landlord has a good reason for the delay an extension may be granted by the inspector. If at the end of that period a second extension is requested it may be granted with the approval of the inspectors office.
However, if your landlord is not cooperating, attempts will be made to find out why. If the landlord continues to fail to comply with housing regulations the case will be turned over to the city attorney for court action.
What if the Landlord Tries to Get Back at Me?
Often a tenant filing a complaint faces the possibility of landlord reprisal. Unfortunately, the laws in this city that protect from retaliatory action on the part of landlord are limited. However, if you are faced with retaliatory eviction, an unreasonable rent increase or a discontinuance of landlord services that can be attributed to your previous action against the landlord, you may want to contact the Clinton County Human Rights Commission.
You may also want to contact the Student Association attorney.
What if Code Enforcement Does Nothing?
If the building inspector’s office is unable to obtain a satisfactory action by the landlord, you may be able to take other actions. For example, welfare recipients can request the Social Services department to withhold rent until the dwelling is brought up to standards. Anyone else thinking about withholding rent should contact an attorney before proceeding. If you meet income requirements, you may receive legal aid from North Country Legal Services, Inc. SUNY Plattsburgh students may want to contact the Student Association attorney.