Let Your Dream Apartment Turn Into a Nightmare
the Landlord. If
you find a great apartment, fend off likely competitors
by being prepared:
your own credit history
and bring along a current
credit agency report;
possible, ask your previous
landlord to write a favorable
letter of reference;
ask your employer, co-workers,
and friends if you can
use them as character
references (bring a list
with names and telephone
and Deposits. Find
out exactly how much you are expected to pay up-front to
rent the apartment. Note: security deposits may
not be more than one month's rent in stabilized units;
fees to superintendents or doormen, commonly called "key
money," are illegal. [More
for a Lease. Leases
provide many important protections for unregulated tenants
such as a fixed rent for the duration of the lease. Unless
you have a lease, your landlord can also evict you without
giving any reason (after 30-days written notice). However,
if you want the flexibility of moving on short notice,
you may not want a lease. [More
your Lease. It
is important that you examine your lease carefully. Once
you and your landlord sign it, the lease is considered
executed and you have in effect agreed to every provision
inside it. Check for the following:
the lease state the correct rent, address, and landlord?
the lease mention all the amenities agreed upon? Be sure
to write down any oral agreements.
your lease to find out the due date for your rent each
month, as well as what late charges apply if you miss the
to see if utilities are billed separately or are included
in your monthly rent.
there any special building rules? Find out if your new
building is: pet-friendly, has limits on guests, has restrictions
on running a home business, etc.
happens at the end of the lease term? Can you renew automatically?
What happens if you break the lease? Can you sublet or
assign (transfer) the lease?
is on the Lease? If
you are a renter, having your name on the lease gives you
more protections and rights than any unsigned tenants.
If you want your partner, child, spouse, roommate or relative
to have lease protections, it is a good idea to put their
name on the lease at the outset (later additions may trigger
a vacancy increase in stabilized apartments). But also
be aware that more names on the lease may mean more complications
in the future if relationships change.
-- Roommates? If
you are joining a household as a roommate, try to find out
what the primary tenant's plans are. If the primary tenant
leaves and you are not on the lease, you have no right to
stay in the apartment. If you would like to stay at your
discretion, see if you can add your name to the lease, although
this may trigger a substantial rent increase in stabilized
-- Rent-Stabilized? If
your apartment is rent-stabilized, be sure to keep the following
for the Rent Stabilization Rider. The Rider describes
the rights and obligations of tenants and owners under
the Rent Stabilization Law. It also states the previous
rent for the apartment. [More
on the Rider]
if the building is operating under the 421-a or J-51
tax incentive programs. If the building was built
with the aid of a tax exemption, your rent is regulated
for the period of the exemption (usually 10-20 years).
At the end of this period, your landlord can charge "market" rates.
you the first tenant in a decontrolled unit? If you
are the first tenant in a previously rent-controlled apartment,
the owner should have negotiated with you before charging
a rent. You have 90 days from the first day of receipt
of notice (called the RR-1 form) to file a "Fair Market
Rent Appeal" (FMRA) if you want to challenge the new
Right to Access. If
you are concerned about privacy, be sure to ask for wording
in the lease limiting the landlord's ability to enter
your apartment (except during emergencies). Tenants in
multiple dwellings also have the right to install and
maintain their own locks on their apartment entrance
doors, but you must provide the landlord with a duplicate
key upon request.
Happens if Your Landlord Leaves? Landlords
must notify tenants, by registered or certified mail, of
the name and address of the new owner. New owners of rent
stabilized buildings are responsible for returning any
security deposits and interest. This responsibility exists
whether or not the new owner received the security deposits
from the former landlord (When a building is sold, the
landlord must transfer all security deposits to the new
owner within five days, or return the security deposits
to the tenants). Foreclosure of the building also does
not affect your lease.
More Help? For
more information on your rights and responsibilities
as a tenant, check out the NYS Attorney General's Landlord/Tenant
Guide and HPD's guide to Useful Information about Housing Rules and Regulations for Building Owners and Tenants: ABC's of Housing (pdf). Also, if you are moving into a rent-stabilized
apartment, you have additional rights as a tenant: check
out the NYS
DHCR Fact Sheets.
Page updated 8/29/2011