The Search

We asked NYC’s chatbot our real estate questions. Here’s what it got wrong

  • The city’s artificial intelligence-powered chatbot may respond with incorrect and illegal advice
  • The chatbot is only intended to answer business-related questions, so use info with caution
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
April 12, 2024 - 12:30PM
Close up of a young Japanese woman using a laptop on a couch in the living room

Users are cautioned not to rely on the city's chatbot, MyCity, for legal or professional advice, and to double check any information it provides. 


There’s an old saying in journalism: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. You’ll do well to be equally skeptical of New York City’s chatbot.

The online publication The Markup found that the city’s artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, dubbed MyCity, advised it to break the law when asked housing related questions, The Markup, Documented, and The City jointly first reported in March.

In one instance, the chatbot claimed that landlords did not have to accept tenants who use rental assistance. In another, it said buildings don’t have to accept Section 8 housing vouchers, another form of government rental assistance. Both of those answers are false; landlords and brokers cannot discriminate based on a renter’s source of income (though voucher holders do experience illegal discrimination).

The city updated the chatbot, which uses Microsoft Azure’s AI services, with new disclaimers following The Markup’s reporting. The homepage now notes that it “may sometimes” give “inaccurate or incomplete” responses, The Markup reported. It also notes that it has limited knowledge of the world outside NYC business-related topics, and it advises users not to use the chatbot for legal or professional advice and to double check the information provided. 

A screenshot of the MyCity chatbot's home page taken Friday, April 12th, 2024 at 10:51 a.m.

A screenshot of the MyCity chatbot's home page taken on Friday April 12th, 2024.


Brick Underground/Celia Young

The chatbot chugs along

Mayor Eric Adams defended keeping the chatbot up on April 2nd, saying that the pilot program should improve over time, and Deputy Mayor Fabien Levy noted that the chatbot was only intended to answer business-related questions. (Though the chatbot initially didn’t shy away from answering housing-related queries, as The City reporter Katie Honan pointed out).

A spokesperson for Microsoft said the company was “aware of reports of inaccurate responses” and is working with the city to “improve the service and ensure the outputs are accurate and grounded on the city’s official documentation.” 

In the meantime, the chatbot seems to be more willing to admit when it doesn’t have answers. When Brick Underground asked it if landlords had to accept Section 8 vouchers or rental assistance on April 11th, the chatbot responded that it didn’t know.

Why chatbots can make mistakes

And it’s worth noting that MyCity’s problems are not unique. A chatbot often gives incorrect or incomplete information because it can fail to find relevant information in the data it looks to for answers, or can generate inaccurate information, said Zhou Yu, an associate professor of computer science at Columbia University.

“Robots make mistakes all the time,” Yu said. “The reason that they can make errors are, for example, the question might not be matched to the right content in the knowledge base [or] the model might craft [an answer] with certain information and hallucinate extra information.”

The city’s chatbot is intended to answer business-related questions, so if you’re a landlord or a tenant looking for answers, it’s best to use other city resources (or Brick Underground!) and treat the chatbot with caution. 

“Don’t trust the response 100 percent,” Yu said. “The model may say something very confidently but still make errors…The expressed confidence is not aligned with the actual confidence of the model.”

Questions and (some) answers

Brick asked the chatbot 13 questions we had received from renters over the past two years, opening a new window each time. It responded that it didn’t have enough information in its data to provide answers for all of them. 

When Brick asked the chatbot general questions about services landlords are required to provide, it was able to provide two correct answers out of 10 total questions. And one of its answers was partially wrong. Here are five examples:

Brick’s questionNYC Chatbot answerBrick’s answer
Does a landlord have to provide heat in a building?

Yes, landlords in New York City are required to provide heat in buildings. The New York City Housing Maintenance Code mandates that landlords must provide heat from October 1st to May 31st. The specific temperature requirements vary depending on the outdoor temperature. Here are the details:

Between the hours of 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, if the outdoor temperature falls below 55°F (12°C), landlords must maintain a minimum indoor temperature of at least 68°F (20°C) inside all dwelling units.

Between the hours of 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, if the outdoor temperature falls below 40°F (4°C), landlords must maintain a minimum indoor temperature of at least 55°F (12°C) inside all dwelling units.

These requirements apply to all habitable rooms, including bedrooms and living rooms. Landlords are responsible for providing heating equipment that is capable of maintaining these temperatures.

If you have any concerns about your landlord not providing adequate heat, you can contact NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) by calling their hotline at 311 or filing a complaint online through their website.

NYC Housing Maintenance Code - Heat Requirements
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development

This answer is partially incorrect. Landlords must provide heat in NYC buildings during heat season—October 1st to May 31st—that much is true. And landlords do need to keep indoor temperatures at 68 degrees or higher during the daytime hours if outdoor temperatures drop below 55 degrees.

However, it is not correct that landlords must keep indoor temperatures at 55 degrees or higher between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. if the outdoor temperature falls below 40 degrees. Both those temperature minimums are incorrect. Landlords are required to heat your apartment to at least 62 degrees during those overnight hours, regardless of the temperature outside, according to the Housing Maintenance Code.

You can and should report inadequate heat to 311.

Is a landlord required to tell you if an apartment has previously flooded?

I'm sorry, but I don't have information on whether a landlord is required to disclose if an apartment has previously flooded. My expertise is limited to general information about NYC services. It's recommended to consult the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) or seek legal advice for specific questions regarding landlord obligations and disclosure requirements in New York City.

[Reference: NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)] (

Your landlord has to disclose your apartment’s flood history under a law Governor Kathy Hochul signed in 2022.
Do landlords need to provide hot water?

Yes, landlords in New York City are required to provide hot water to their tenants. The New York City Housing Maintenance Code states that landlords must provide hot water at a minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) 24 hours a day, year-round .

References: Professional Office

That’s correct, landlords do have to provide hot water to their tenants all year round.
Do landlords have to provide window guards if there are children living in the apartment?

I'm sorry, but I don't have information on that. My knowledge is currently limited to MyCity Business site content related to opening or operating a business in New York City.

References: NYC Business

Owners must provide and install window guards on all windows in apartments when a child of 10 years of age or younger resides in the apartment.
Can landlords use lead paint in apartments?The requested information is not found in the retrieved data. Please try another query or topic.NYC banned the use of lead-based paint in residential properties in 1960, and landlords of older buildings must remediate any lead-based paint hazards where there are young children.


Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.