Off-Campus Housing Laws (Know Your Rights)

There is a housing code in the City of Plattsburgh that 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, it is just one step toward insuring decent housing.

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 Clerks Office at City Hall.

Housing Inspectors and 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.

Return to top

Plattsburgh Housing Code

This information is a summary of the City of Plattsburgh's Housing Code and is designed to give you a good idea as to whether or not your residence complies with code regulations. If it doesn't comply, you have the right to take action to solve the problem.

The number inside the parentheses corresponds to sections in the Housing Code.)

Maximum Occupancy (Sec. A 203)

The maximum number of people allowed to live in an apartment is determined on the basis of floor areas of habitable rooms (other than kitchens) as follow:

  1. One occupant per room having a floor area of at least 80sq.ft. (8x10 room).
  2. Two occupants per room having a floor area of at least 120sq.ft. (10x12 room).
  3. Three occupants per room having a floor area of at least 180 sq. ft.

There are different codes and specifications pertaining to buildings occupied as clubs, dormitories, sorority or fraternity houses.

Prohibited Uses (Sec. A 204)

  1. No kitchens, public space or non-habitable place can be used for sleeping purposes.
  2. All communal kitchens must have a floor area of at least 100 sq. ft. (10x10 room).
  3. You cannot use lodging units to prepare or eat meals.
  4. It is prohibited to use any cellar space as habitable space.

Habitable Space (Sec. 205-1)

 

  1. Must have a ceiling height of 7'6" over at least 50% of the floor area. (Ceiling space under 5' is not included in the computation of floor area).
  2. A dwelling unit must contain 150 ft. of floor area with a minimum horizontal dimension of 10'.
  3. Kitchens must have a minimum 60 sq. ft. of floor area.

Basements (for habitable use)

  1. The depth of the basement cannot exceed four times its clear height.
  2. Windows are required on more than one wall.

Light & Ventilation

(Sec. A 205-3)

  1. Your room must be provided with natural light through one or more windows.
  2. Your room must be supplied with artificial light.
  3. Your room may also be provided with natural ventilation via windows, sky lights.
  4. Your room may also be provided with mechanical ventilation in addition to natural ventilation.

(Sec. A 206-2)

  1. Public places shall be provided with artificial light including stairs, stairways and passageways.
  2. There must be a sufficient number of fixtures provided so that the distance between fixtures doesn't exceed 30 ft. and no wall is more than 15 ft. from a fixture.

Non-Habitable Space (sec. 207-2)

Bathrooms

  1. Must have provisions for privacy.
  2. Must be located within the dwelling unit and must be accessible from any sleeping room without having to pass through another sleeping room.
  3. Floors of bathroom must be waterproof.

Exits

  1. Safe, continuous and unobstructed exits must be provided.
  2. Exits must be arranged so that occupants can escape safely in case of an emergency.

Fire Safety Requirements (Sec. A 401)

  1. It is prohibited to accumulate or store any highly flammable or explosive matter, such as paints, volatile oils, rags or similar materials.
  2. It is also prohibited to accumulate or store materials on fire escapes or stairs, in stairways or passageways at doors or windows.

Prevention of Fire Spread (Sec. A 402)

  1. Walls and ceilings must be maintained free from cracks and openings.

Plumbing Facilities (Sec. A 502-5)

  1. Your apartment must be provided with plumbing systems designed to dispose of the sewage and to furnish cold water to every toilet and hot and cold water to every sink, lavatory, bathtub and shower.
  2. Hot water must be furnished at 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Your apartment must have one kitchen sink, one bathtub or shower and one lavatory.

Heating (Sec. A 504)

  1. Adequate heat must be provided to maintain the indoor temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. when the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tenant Responsibilities (Sec. C 303)

The housing code places certain responsibilities upon the tenant. These include:

  1. Limiting the number of occupants in the apartment to the number permitted by the housing standards.
  2. Maintaining the part of the premises which s/he occupies in a clean and sanitary condition.
  3. Keeping all plumbing, cooking and refrigeration fixtures in a clean and sanitary condition.
  4. Keeping exits from his/her dwelling clear and unencumbered.
  5. Disposal of garbage and refuse into provided facilities.
  6. Extermination of insects, rodents or other pests if his/her dwelling unit is the only one infested.
  7. Keeping his/her domestic animals and pets in an appropriate manner and under control.

Landlord Responsibilities (Sec. C 302)

Landlords and/or apartment managers are responsible for compliance with the housing standards in regard to the following:

  1. Limiting the number of occupants to maximum number permitted by the housing code.
  2. Maintenance of safe and sanitary conditions in all parts of lodging house premises.
  3. Maintenance and operation of all required service facilities.
  4. Maintenance of all plumbing, cooking and refrigeration fixtures and appliances.
  5. Sanitary maintenance of walls, floors and ceilings.
  6. Keeping all exits clear and unencumbered.
  7. Disposal of building garbage.
  8. Extermination of insects and rodents or other pests on the premises.
  9. Handling and removing screens.

Mobile Homes (Sec. B Part II)

There is a Section of Housing Code that applies specifically to mobile homes. Those Plattsburgh residents living in mobile homes should be familiar with it.

Return to top

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.

Follow Up

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. See their website for more information (http://www.clintoncountygov.com/Departments/HumanRightsCommission/HumanRightsCommissionHomePage.html). Plattsburgh State students may 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. Plattsburgh State students may want to  contact the Student Association Attorney.

Return to top

Contact Information

If you have any questions about housing or residence life at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:

Cathy Moulton, Director of Housing
Housing & Residence Life Office
Office: Algonquin Hall 103
Office Hours: Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  
Phone: (518) 564-3824
Email: housing@plattsburgh.edu