can a landlord demand more security deposit after you've moved in
October 22, 2008 12:53 PM   Subscribe

nychousingfilter: I signed a lease, moved into my new apartment on the 1st and now my landlord is demanding an extra security deposit. Can they do this?

First: I know you are not a lawyer and that even if you are, you're not my lawyer. Also this is posted anonymously because some of friends read Ask MeFi and I'd like my business to be private.

I'm taking time off to work on a startup, my family overseas is investing by covering the rent while I do and the company of a family friend signed a form guaranteeing my rent. I signed my lease, received keys, and gave the landlord's company first + last + security in the form of teller's checks which they've cashed last month, and I moved in on the first. All of a sudden the landlord has decided they want more forms from the company guaranteeing me which they don't want to provide, and have told my family that they'd like a few additional months security deposit. Can they do this? Can they cancel my lease and force me to move out or move to evict me if I don't cough up? I signed the lease but haven't received a copy of it signed by my landlord, so it's possible he's not signed it, but they cashed my checks and let me move in on the first. What are their options, and what are mine?

(And yes, I'm looking for a housing lawyer, but I'd still like to be able to know things and thus do my own research before I see one, hence this question. Thanks for help in advance.)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (15 answers total)
The lease is signed; if you're not violating some term of the lease, it holds, and they have no right to demand more money.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:00 PM on October 22, 2008

What Tomorrowful said. A lease is a contract, if it isn't in the lease it's none of your business.
posted by rhizome at 1:06 PM on October 22, 2008

Not if its not in the lease. Ask him to show you the part of the lease that requires more.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:07 PM on October 22, 2008

If you're already in the apartment, it's going to be tough for them to demand anything from you.

Understand that NYC is the most pro-tenant city in the country. Once you move in somewhere, if you stopped paying rent the next day, it would be 90 days before they could even serve you with intent of notice to evict. And then it's another 6 months before it gets to court. This is why landlords are so crazy in this city. (I was a real estate agent for about two years in NYC.)

You'll have to read the lease to see what the termination clauses are. The landlord CAN follow those clauses to end your lease. But there's not much he can do right now since he accepted your checks and cashed them AND let you move in. You've taken possession. It's going to be mega-tough to get you out now.

The fact that you're in the building already means you've got more power than he does.

See for more infomation.

IANAL etc.
posted by micawber at 1:08 PM on October 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

A FEW additional months deposit? No way. 1st, last & security is what you agreed to and signed off on. You signed the lease, they cashed the checks, and if they're suddenly worried about your ability to pay, well, that's not your problem unless you decide to renew the lease when it's up. The only time I've heard of people paying another deposit after the fact is if they get a pet (a pet deposit, for any damage it might cause), and if that were to happen, another piece of paper would have to be signed by you agreeing to it. But they can't just suddenly demand more money after the paperwork is already taken care of and you're moved in.

Like, micawber said, the cards are stacked in your favor legally now. Triple check your copy of the lease (even if it's not signed by them) to make sure there isn't some fine print allowing them to do this. But I'd say just make sure your rent is paid on time every month, and you're fine.

I'd also advise that you keep meticulous records of your rent payments and when they were cashed, and if you haven't already, take photos of the condition of the apartment, in case you have a hard time getting back your security deposit when you move out. This landlord sounds shady to me, but if you keep detailed records you'll be covering all your bases.
posted by AlisonM at 1:16 PM on October 22, 2008

I have to believe there is a New York Tenants Union or a legal aid organization that can assist you with this. It sounds like BS to me.
posted by Ponderance at 1:28 PM on October 22, 2008

My landlord wanted a pet deposit when I got a new dog, but this charge was already stipulated in the lease agreement.

Maybe he got nervous by your "overseas" family and he is afraid you may leave the country if things don't work out. Have you called him? What does he/she say about the reasons for a larger deposit?

If it isn't in the lease, I don't see how he can ask for more money.
posted by wrnealis at 1:29 PM on October 22, 2008

If the landlord had asked for this in advance, it would in fact be fairly common to require this from someone who is not gainfully employed and whose family is OVERSEAS. I'm not saying it's right or entirely logical, just that I've seen it happen over and over again.

There are landlords in this city who won't take guarantors from Texas or Florida due to some law that wouldn't allow them to pursue resolution of their debts there. Overseas makes them insane.

Again, because of the pro-tenant nature of the housing laws landlords want to be crazy sure that whoever moves in isn't going to stiff them. I've had landlords ask for the entire year up front for someone from France who doesn't have a job or a paycheck here.

There are landlords who don't look at that but look at your credit instead. It totally depends on who the landlord is.

The whole point of this is to say that him asking for it after the fact doesn't make him shady, just sloppy. Someone obviously didn't look at your paperwork closely enough and approved the deal without realizing what the situation was, IMHO, so they're trying to cover their ass now.

If you don't live and rent in New York City not a lot of this will make sense.
posted by micawber at 1:35 PM on October 22, 2008


" they'd like a few additional months security deposit."

If you have the additional money on hand and can structure it as a payment of the last x months rent on the lease in advance, it may be worth it (despite opportunity costs of lost interest earnings, etc.) to pay. The very fact that you've appeared in housing court can make it harder to rent in NYC. It sucks, but that's the way it is. So if you can avoid and only minor cost to you going to housing court in the first place it might be worth it. It's probably also worth it to consult a lawyer.

If they really want it to be a deposit (e.g. you'll still have to pay rent and they'll refund afterwards) this is a bad idea, because if they're sloppy about this stuff now, I'd expect it to be hard to get your money back later.
posted by Jahaza at 2:05 PM on October 22, 2008

Read this as: "So, if you can avoid going to housing court for only the minor cost of lost interest, it might be worth it."
posted by Jahaza at 2:06 PM on October 22, 2008

yeah, I don't think so.

Call the attorney general's office--their renter's rights website does not address this specifically but they were very helpful in getting my security deposit back from a landlord who decided I never paid one. And if this is, in fact, illegal (which I suspect) the AG office breathing down a landlord's neck will put a stop to this in a hurry.

Start documenting everything NOW. Keep meticulous records of all phone calls with dates, times, names, who said what, etc. Try to move all correspondence to written if possible and send all letters certified mail, return receipt. Take a lot of pictures of the condition of your apartment (you did that when you moved in, right?) because when you leave, they might try to charge you for things that were damaged before.

Be prepared that even if they drop this matter, they might decide not to renew your lease when it comes due, so you need to start thinking about what will happen when you move out.

You might also offer to pay your rent in cashier's checks or something (less any fee you're charged for doing so) if that would help to put their mind at ease.
posted by purplecurlygirl at 2:13 PM on October 22, 2008

Start documenting everything NOW. Keep meticulous records of all phone calls with dates, times, names, who said what, etc. Try to move all correspondence to written if possible and send all letters certified mail, return receipt. Take a lot of pictures of the condition of your apartment (you did that when you moved in, right?) because when you leave, they might try to charge you for things that were damaged before.

Please, please do this.
posted by GPF at 2:37 PM on October 22, 2008

Had they asked for this upfront, it would be fine. A word of advice about contracts/leases/etc: have them sign first. That said, even though they didn't sign the lease, since they've already accepted and cashed your checks AND given you possession of the unit, I don't think they have much power to demand anything extra now.
posted by necessitas at 6:22 PM on October 22, 2008

My recommendation (as an eight-year New Yorker on a tight budget, which is almost synonymous with "a person who's dealt with shady landlords") is to know your lease well, be relaxed and firm with the landlord, and document EVERYTHING.

An important part of documentation in a situation like this is making audio recordings of all phone contact with the landlord. You get to choose whether or not you inform them about this (like most U.S. states, NY State is a single-party consent state, meaning that only one party needs to consent to audio recording of a phone call).
posted by kalapierson at 12:35 AM on October 23, 2008

Everybody's given you a series of good ways to determine your rights. If you're researching for fun, since you like to know things, then I think micawber and wrnealis are on the right track in giving you a place to start to expand beyond that. Consider the position of the landlord - what's making them twitchy?

For the sake of argument, let's say something about your guarantor or the form they signed made the landlord uneasy. If I'm the landlord and I now want extra security, the argument that I'd be eyeballing is that the lease was predicated on a solid guarantee offered by your friend's company. Maybe I'd paint the picture that the guarantee is deficient in some fashion that nobody expected, and the guarantor won't fix it. Or maybe the guarantor intentionally made some misrepresentation that undercuts the guarantee. There'd be a few plays to make here - I could ask a court to rescind or reform the contract, or go after someone for fraud if there was a misrepresentation.

A warning, though. Doing that sort of research is kind of like looking up medical symptoms on the web - of dubious practical value, but good for a cheap scare.
posted by averyoldworld at 1:40 PM on October 23, 2008

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