Roommates + Landlords

My hardwood floors are damaged. Can I get my landlord to replace them?

By Austin Havens-Bowen | November 30, 2021 - 2:30PM 

Unsafe flooring is something you can ask a landlord to repair under the warranty of habitability. 

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Question:

The hardwood floors in my New York City rental are cracked and cold air seeps through. I'd like to get them repaired or replaced. Can I get my landlord to do this?

Answer:

Many New York City rental apartments have hardwood floors—and they look nicer (and cleaner) than carpet. However over time they can start to wear out and become a hazard.

If your hardwood floors are badly damaged—meaning they're cracked, splintered, or causing other safety concerns—then your landlord is required to repair them under the warranty of habitability, says Steven Kirkpatrick, a partner at law firm Romer Debbas. Your lease also should outline what your landlord is responsible for, Kirkpatrick says. 

However if the floors are only damaged in a certain area, don't expect your landlord to refinish or repair all of the flooring in the apartment, Kirkpatrick says. It is acceptable for your landlord to only repair the portion of the floors that are damaged, and they don’t necessarily have to be the same exact same flooring, as long as it’s reasonable type of patch. 


[Editor's Note: Realty Bites tackles your NYC rental questions. Have a query for our experts? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]


When it comes to refinishing hardwood floors, it’s usually done to remove deep scratches and dents, according to the National Wood Flooring Association. Your landlord might consider this to be cosmetic damage. 

If the issues are just cosmetic, you might have a harder time getting your landlord to fix them.

But if you’re a long-term renter, it’s worth asking. There are also some products like Elmer’s Woodfiller ($7 on Amazon) that help fill in cracks and get rid of surface scratches. 

If all of the flooring need to be replaced, you might have to leave the apartment for a few days, especially if they’re being replaced in every room. If your landlord asks you to leave, they should pay for relocating you, Catharine Grad, an attorney at Grad and Weinraub, previously told Brick. This can be a vacant apartment in your building or a hotel, she says. 

Refinishing and replacing floors is a messy process, so be sure to cover or tent your belongings to protect them from dust and debris while the work is being done. 

 

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