If You Just Can’t Afford The Rent

High rents are probably the biggest problem for most New York City tenants.

There are limited resources available to help tenants pay their rent. The information here is meant as a guide to your options if you find yourself unable to afford the rent in the apartment that you currently live in.

We won’t solve this problem one person at a time – we must come together and organize to change our laws and housing policies. Join the fight for safe, decent, and affordable housing today!

How can I get assistance with paying back-rent?

You may be eligible for assistance in paying back rent if you are at risk for an eviction for nonpayment of rent.

There are only a small number of programs that provide rental assistance on a monthly basis to people who are unable to afford their apartments (see below for more on FHEPS, HASA, and Section 8). However, many people qualify for one-time assistance in paying back rent to avoid eviction. Grants and loans are available from the government and from private charity sources.

To qualify for assistance in paying back rent, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the ability to pay your ongoing rent. You do not need to have an active nonpayment eviction case filed against you to qualify for these loans, though the city may require legal action for eligibility on a case-by-case basis, especially if the amount owed is very high.

One-shot deals:

A one-shot deal is an interest-free loan or a grant from the government to help tenants with back rent. You may apply at any time you have rent owed, though the city might ask for proof of legal action. One-shot deals can take months to be approved, so you are strongly encouraged to apply for assistance as soon as possible, even if you think that you may be able to come up with the funds on your own. If you do have an active nonpayment eviction case against you, you may have to return to court many times to request extensions while your one-shot deal application is pending, but Housing Court judges are familiar with the program and may be willing to grant these extensions, particularly if you pay your ongoing rent while you are waiting for a decision.

To find out the local HRA center where you can apply for a one-shot deal, call 311.

Applications for one-shot assistance are evaluated based on:

  • the tenant’s ability to pay ongoing rent (i.e. they can afford their current rent, and only need help in paying what they already owe)
  • the tenant’s compliance with the procedures (they must attend appointments, provide paperwork, show up to court dates, and pay current rent)
  • the reason for falling behind in rent must be ‘valid’ (loss of job, medical emergency, death in the family, etc.)

There are different types of loans that are all considered “one-shot deals”, some for families, some for single adults, and some for adults with disabilities. Connecting with a community organization with staff social workers can help you figure out which one-shot deal is most appropriate for you, and can also make sure your application is as strong as possible.

Be advised that even when tenants qualify for one-shot deals, the assistance sometimes cover part of the back rent owed, but not all of it. You may have to come up with a portion of it on your own, or with the help of a third party, such as a family friend, or a charity.

Charity assistance:

A number of charities provide limited assistance with back-rent. As with the one-shot deals, to qualify you must be able to pay your ongoing rent, as they only help pay what is already owed. Charities assistance is sometimes combined with government assistance.

To get referrals to charities across New York City that provide rental-assistance, call the Housing Court Answers rent assistance hotline at 212-962-4795

The charities that provide back-rent assistance ask that you contact the central number above for initial intake and referrals, and that you do not contact the charities directly. Different charities will have different eligibility requireents.

I receive public assistance. Do I qualify for ongoing rental assistance with FHEPS?

Family Eviction Prevention Supplement or FHEPS (formerly known as FEPS) is one of the only rental assistance programs that is currently open for new applicants in New York City.

To be eligible for FHEPS:

  • at least one household member must currently have an active Cash Assistance case (or, if you are in shelter, qualify for CA once you leave shelter)
  • your family must include a child under 18 years of age, a child under 19 years of age who is enrolled full-time in high school or a vocational or technical program, or a pregnant woman
  • you must either be in an HRA shelter OR in a DHS shelter but eligible for HRA shelter or have been evicted before you entered shelter OR currently be in the process of being evicted or have been evicted in the last 12 months

See the City’s Fact Sheet about FHEPS here

Where to apply for FEPS:

You can ask for a list of places to go to apply for FHEPS by calling Housing Court Answers at 212-962-4795 or 311

For more information about the program, read the Legal Aid Society’s Frequently Asked Questions about FHEPS.

As a person living with HIV/AIDS, how can I qualify for ongoing rental assistance through HASA?

People living with HIV/AIDS and certain family members/caretakers of theirs may be eligible for ongoing rental assistance and other essential benefits (including medical care) through the HASA program (HIV/AIDS Service Administration). Clients may receive rental assistance to live in privately-owned housing, or referrals to public housing and/or other supportive housing facilities, with payments or fees based on their income. 

To obtain more information about HASA or to apply for the program, call the ServiceLine at 212-971-0626; (TTY machine): (212) 971-2731 

The program’s office is located at:

400 Eighth Avenue, 2nd Floor New York, NY 10001

You can find out more about HASA and find application forms on the City’s info page

Can I get a Section 8 voucher to help me pay the rent?

Section 8 is a federal program that assists low-income households pay rent in privately-owned apartments. Tenants pay 30% of their total household income towards rent, and the Section 8 voucher covers the difference between that amount and the total rent for the apartment. In New York City, the Section 8 portable voucher program is administered by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). A smaller number of vouchers are made available for certain developments by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).

While there are nearly 100,000 households in New York City with a Section 8 voucher, there is no more funding for additional vouchers. As people leave the program, new individuals or families on the waiting list may be able to get a voucher, but the wait time can be very long.

Currently the waiting list for Section 8 vouchers is closed except for emergency applicants in the following categories:

  • Victim of Domestic Violence
  • Intimidated Witness referred by the District Attorney’s Office
  • Applicants referred by the Administration for Children’s Services under the Independent Living or Family Reunification Programs

To learn more, or to check the status of a previous application, go to the Access HRA website.

To learn more, or to find out how to get on the waiting list, go to the Frequently Asked Questions about Section 8 on the NYCHA website.

Am I being overcharged for my rent-stabilized apartment?

There is a maximum legal rent for every rent-stabilized apartment, based on the unique history of that apartment. It’s not based on the apartment’s size, nor the going rent of apartments in that area, nor the income of the tenant. Rents can be increased by few percent every time the lease is renewed. Landlords can also get higher increases when improvements or renovations are made to the building or individual unit. If the unit is extensively renovated (like between tenants, for example) these increases can be much larger. Prior to the passage of the 2019 rent laws, landlords could get much higher increases when there was a turnover in tenancy.

To find out the legal rent for your apartment, your first step is to request a rent history from the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR). That is the state agency in charge of overseeing rent-regulated apartments.

Landlords of rent-stabilized buildings are required to register the rents they charge with HCR. They may or may not be registering the correct amount, but the first thing you need to do is find out what they have registered.

You can obtain a copy of your apartment’s rent history from the DHCR in one of three ways:

  1. BY PHONE: Call HCR and ask them to mail your rent history to you: 833-499-0343
  2. ONLINE: You can either email your name and address to RentInfo@hcr.ny.gov. and ask for a copy of your rent history or you can request it via HCR’s online portal and select “Apartment Rent History” under Reason.
  3. IN PERSON: HCR has offices throughout the city, and you can get your rent history from any office. You must have valid government-issued photo ID (drivers license, passport, etc) and a copy of your lease. Click here for a list of locations of HCR’s Borough and District Rent Offices.

Once you get your rent history, you may want to talk to an experienced advocate, tenant lawyer, community-based organization, or assistant to an elected official, to help you interpret your rent history and decide how to proceed. Getting free legal representation can be difficult, but you can consult with volunteer attorneys by appointment at the Help Centers at the New York City Housing Courts. To find out who your elected officials are, you can call 311. If you’re going to be in court before you have a chance to talk with a lawyer or advocate, you may want to ask for an adjournment (a request for a later court date) in order to get more time to look into the matter.

If you believe that you are being overcharged, your two options for seeking a rent-adjustment and a refund are:

  1. file a rent overcharge complaint with the DHCR by filing a form RA-89 (call 833-499-0343 to request a paper copy, download it from HCR’s website). You can see more information on rent overcharge’s on HCR’s website
  2. raise the overcharge as a defense in a nonpayment eviction in Housing Court.

There are advantages and drawbacks to each method of challenging your legal rent, and consequences based on which one you choose. If possible, seek legal counsel before deciding which route is best for you.

Do I have a right to have a roommate or family member move in with me and help me pay the rent?

In New York State, the law protects the right of certain tenants to live with a roommate regardless of what it says in their leases. This right cannot be waived.

All tenants have a right to have family members reside with them so long as the apartment does not become overcrowded. If you live in living in public (NYCHA) or subsidized housing or if you receive rental assistance (like a voucher), you must report all household members and their incomes, including when this changes mid-lease.

If you live in a privately-owned building and are the only person named on your lease, you also have the right to share your apartment with one other adult not related to you, and that person’s dependent children. (Note: overcharging roommates in rent-stabilized apartments is prohibited.)

Exceptions and restrictions to the right to share your apartment apply to tenants living in public and subsidized housing and those who receive rental assistance based on income-eligibility. Always check your program’s rules before taking in another household member.

For more information on this topic, visit our page on your right to have a rooommate.

I am a senior citizen (62+). How can I apply to have my rent frozen through the SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) program?

Seniors living in rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments, Mitchell-Lama or limited dividend company buildings (such as Penn South or Amalgamated Houses), and apartments regulated by the loft board, are eligible to have their rent frozen through the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption program (SCRIE) if: 

  • the head of household is 62 or older
  • the household income less than $50,000.
  • the rent is 30% or more of the household income or an upcoming rent increase will bump the rent over that mark

The program is administered by the New York City Department of Finance. To apply, you can

You can also use ACCESS HRA and check out the City’s Department for the Aging website to find out if you are eligible for other government benefits and resources for seniors.

If I am disabled, how can I apply to have my rent frozen through the DRIE (Disability Rent Increase Exemption) program?

Disabled tenants living in rent-stabilized or rent-controlled apartments, Mitchell-Lama or limited dividend company buildings (such as Penn South or Amalgamated Houses), and apartments regulated by the loft board are eligible to have their rent frozen if:

  • the tenant receives state or federal disability-related financial assistance: Federal Supplementary Security Income (SSI); Federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); US Dept. of Veterans Affairs disability pension or compensation (Must be Military service-related disability pension or compensation); or Disability-related Medicaid (if the applicant has received either SSI or SSDI in the past)
  • the household income less than $50,000.
  • the rent is 1/3 of income or an upcoming rent increase will bump the rent over that mark 

The program is administered by the New York City Department of Finance. To apply, you can

How can I find a new apartment that I can afford?

Privately-owned housing:

The majority of affordable housing in New York City is privately owned, and not subsidized by the government. Thanks to decades of advocacy from tenants, New York continues to have a robust system of rent regulations for our privately-owned housing. The two rent-regulation programs – rent stabilization and rent control – together provide the essential rent and eviction protections that 2.5 million New Yorkers depend on in order to be able to afford their apartments – more than every subsidy-based affordable housing program combined. Most people begin their search for a privately-owned apartment by searching websites and local newspapers, by working with a real estate broker or agent, or by word of mouth. You may want to check Apartment Hunting Resources on the Web, on the New York City Rent Guidelines Board’s website.

Public Housing, Subsidized Housing, and Affordable Housing Lotteries:

Most of the apartment buildings developed through government affordable housing programs have waiting lists or, if recently built, a lottery application process. To apply for public housing, subsidized housing, or other affordable housing programs administered by the city or federal government, you must visit each program’s website to find out the eligibility requirements and application process. Most applications are done online but all have their own process. Programs like Mitchell-Lama apartments are also advertised in local newspapers.

Places to start when searching for goverment-funded or supervised affordable-housing options: