House Rent Boggle
October 26, 2010 11:22 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to know about signing a lease in Manhattan?

I just got the call an hour ago that I have been approved to move in to an apartment in NYC. It's not my first lease, but it's my first lease in Manhattan. What sorts of things should I be aware of at lease signing? I plan to read everything, but what in specific should I pay attention to? What questions should I ask? What are my rights?

A few things: The apartment was undergoing renovations when I saw it. Neither the stove nor the refrigerator was installed. How can I make sure that they are satisfactorily installed?
Also, I asked for a Nov. 15th move-in date on the application. I'm sure they would prefer me to move in on the 1st. Is there any way I can request the 15th (other than "ask really nicely")?

I'm signing the lease tonight! Yikes!
posted by Eideteker to Law & Government (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Given the deadline, I appreciate deep links to NYC/NYS tenant law, but will probably not have time to read them. Summaries are preferred. I'm not super-worried, but I want to make sure I'm covering my bases/the basics. Thanks!
posted by Eideteker at 11:24 AM on October 26, 2010

I don't have a lot of information, but people here in Manhattan begin leases on the 15th all the time. It's not a big deal.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:28 AM on October 26, 2010

Best answer: Re the November 15 move-in date, it is part of the negotiation, like any other term of the lease. If they insist on November 1 and you insist on November 15, you or they can always just walk away. There is certainly nothing abnormal about a lease starting on November 15 in NYC - I just signed one starting on Nov. 13th.

If you're looking for negotiation techniques, I'd just go in and insist on November 15 and see what they do. If they say that's unacceptable and the lease can only start November 1, push back. At this point, they'd likely be hard-pressed to rent the apartment by November 1 for a November 1 move-in. You have the upper hand there. You could offer to lease through November 30, 2011 as a compromise, giving them a "typical" cutoff date for your lease. On the other hand, you could argue that people are often looking for apartments that are available for move-in a few days before the start of the month (to allow them to move out of a place with a lease that ends on the last day of the month), and that if you vacate come November 15, 2011, that'll give them time to clean and offer the apartment to one of those people. Just some thoughts. From the landlord's perspective, a key Q is how long the apartment's been vacant. Sounds like it's been under renovation, in which case the earliest move-in date might have been November 1, 2011 and 15 days of vacancy isn't that bad. Regardless, you put your requested move-in date as November 15 in your app and haven't heard anything from them - you can also say they should have let you know prior to the time of lease-signing if they had an issue with that and act pissed.

With regard to the renovations, write what you want into the lease. I've found people are often afraid to negotiate standard forms of leases, but that if you do, landlords are often somewhat amenable. If it is a standard REBNY lease, there will be a provision about how what the landlord represents will be done before move-in. If there's not a provision that states that all appliances will be installed and in good-working order, add it. They may push back, but just explain what you saw. My position is that if I request something eminently reasonable and they push back and say of "course, of course, but no need to put it in the lease, I guarantee it," I'll call bullshit. It's not that I doubt their word, it's just then there is no reason to put it in the lease.

Remember, they want you to rent this place. If you don't, it is more work for the broker/management company/landlord and likely more time the apartment stays vacant. Use that power to your advantage. And unless you are downright rude, remember that you can get up and start to walk out... and turn around again and go back to sign - they are not going to say, sorry, you negotiated, screw you. Just be friendly and forthright and reasonable - it'll all work out. Good luck!
posted by slide at 11:52 AM on October 26, 2010

Does this landlord have lots of buildings? Where is it located? Can you talk to any of the other tenants? Can you google the landlord? You'll probably have to pay for the utilities to be turned on so you couldn't try the stove or fridge in advance anyway but this is usually not something to worry about. Tenant law in nyc is strongly on the side of the tenant. Most of the people who have trouble are intimidated or don't know their rights. Leases are mainly boilerplate but see if there are any peculiar riders added on at the end.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:57 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more thing: Because tenant law so favors the tenant, landlords can get paranoid about whom they rent to, thus ask for all kinds of references and credit checks since, once they're stuck with you, it is hard to get rid of you. Keep this in mind if you want to negotiate something up front since, if you really want this place, you don't want the landlord to think you're going to be trouble. As far as the landlord having trouble replacing you at a moment's notice, if (s)he has a lot of buildings, this won't be a concern since you represent a small part of the total rental income.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:13 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My last two apartments in New York City required me to start my leases on the 1st of the month but pro-rated the first months' rent to account for days when I was not living in the apartment. It did seem to me that landlords are getting stricter about that 1st of the month deal, which did not used to be the case in my experience.

Pay attention to any lease riders regarding roommates, pets, subletting, last month's rent, security deposit, and breaking the lease. These things are all covered by the tenant right's guide on the attorney general's website.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:28 PM on October 26, 2010

Obscure Reference NAILED IT.

Leases in NYC are exceptionally boilerplate. There are agencies and inspectors if things go wrong down the road.....

Meanwhile, right now you sound like a "classic" pain in the ass tenant, and I know you don't mean to! Stop this immediately. You are exceptionally replaceable at this stage of the game. Keep this in mind.

Asking for 15th move-in is just fine. They've probably already accommodated you on this, but confirm with the person typing up the lease today to make sure. Call up and say, "The start date for the lease is November 15th, correct?" If they balk and want a November 1st start date, please remember what I pointed out (that you are exceptionally replaceable at this stage of the game) and decide how far you want to push this issue before you phone up and ask the question.

If the place is being renovated, expect you will discover a few mistakes or areas that require additional attention upon move-in. That is normal for any new renovation. Assume your landlord will work with you on this and is expecting same (trust me - they've seen it all before.) Simply confirm who gets the phone call/email if you have a repair issue at the lease signing.

Enjoy NYC. It rocks!
posted by jbenben at 12:33 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: "right now you sound like a "classic" pain in the ass tenant"

Based on what? I just want to make sure I have appliances that were promised at application time, and that I don't sign anything stupid.

I already talked to the broker and Nov. 15th is not on the table. I'll suck it up and deal. Thanks for the advice, everyone!
posted by Eideteker at 1:18 PM on October 26, 2010

Also, the broker wants you to rent this place because he/she did the work. The owner/management doesn't give a sh#t because there are 12 other brokers with likely applicants lined up behind you. The person who will mislead you the most is the broker, if you are using one.

(I know this because I was an agent in NYC during college. The first broker I worked for lied all the time.)
posted by jbenben at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2010

As a data point, in my latest move, my (Manhattan) lease is Aug 1-Jul 31, but I was allowed to pay a pro-rated 2 wks rent and move in on Jul 16. They drafted a quick rider to say we could move in early; just didnt want to re-write their standard lease.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2010

Based on this

"I appreciate deep links to NYC/NYS tenant law, but will probably not have time to read them. Summaries are preferred."

Emphasis mine to point out the contradictions and what an owner might find objectionable. It comes off as fussy and demanding. Sorry.

Again. Did this job for 3 years. Tone it down a bit and you will love your new apartment AND your landlord.
posted by jbenben at 1:22 PM on October 26, 2010

Best answer: The kitchen stuff will probably be written into the lease (I moved in aug 7th with similar situation)- ie it might say 'all new appliances installed in kitchen' etc. It all depends as well on whether you are working with a broker or not and how desirable the building is. (ie as to whether there are a line of other tenants). You may be able to bargain for Nov 15th, as others said, you can ask and it sounds like you already did. You can re-ask but if you are there to sign, you have to be ready to say yes, no, or how about nov 7th on the spot! Really, I just signed in to say 'be ready to pay an enormous amount of money especially if you are working with a broker'. I am still reeling!!
posted by bquarters at 2:18 PM on October 26, 2010

Response by poster: See, there was some weird stuff there like a "Preferential Rent Rider," whereby the 'real' rent was $OMFG, but they were only charging me $OMG and that was very scary, but I assume on rent stabilized buildings, that's to be expected? I wasn't trying to be fussy, I just wanted to know about this stuff going in precisely so I didn't have to ask a bajillion questions about it.
posted by Eideteker at 6:39 AM on October 27, 2010

Ha, yes. Rent stabilization. Don't worry about the real rent listed, you're just paying the preferential rent. The real rent always makes me laugh - I've seen it be $2000 above the preferential rent, and I'm sure there are more egregious examples too. Nice that they are preserving their ability to charge the higher rent if the market ever allows, but I have trouble believing it ever will when the difference has gotten to be that great. Congrats on the apartment.
posted by slide at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2010

For future reference, always have a rider-to-lease ready in which your specific terms, wishes, etc. are expressed. As a tenant dealing with a landlord, you're within your rights to have one.

The way they're formatted is that it's got this at the top:

dated DATE
by and among
NAME OR COMPANY, as Landlord
and BLANK, as Tenant,
for the premises located at

and underneath in a numerical outline-style list is everything that you and the Landlord agree to which is extra to the terms in the lease.

The way a rider is executed is that each party initials the bottom of each page and then signs in full at the bottom of the last page. On the lease itself, it will indicate how many pages of rider are attached.

Also note, you can also always cross out lines in the lease and write in your own terms. If the Landlord agrees, then you two will initial the changes, item by item and then sign at the end.

(IANAL, but I am a licensed real estate salesperson.)
posted by TrishaLynn at 1:40 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

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