Rental Guide

After Move-in/Move-out

After Move-in/Move-out

In most buildings, when any repair or maintenance work needs to be done, it is the superintendent that will either do the repair or arrange to have it done.  If you would like to ensure a prompt response to any repairs you need to have done, be sure to tip the super when he comes to do work in your apartment. The next time you need a repair, the superintendent might respond a little faster. The superintendent runs the building, and all other personnel that work in the building usually report to him.

At the end of the year, it is recommended that everyone who works in the building - the superintendent, doormen, porters, etc. - be tipped.

Tenant’s Rights

Here are some links to help you know your rights:

As stated in Section 6, the State of New York’s Attorney General’s Office provides a “Tenant’s Rights Guide” on their web site.  http://www.ag.ny.gov

Check Met Council’s web site - http://metcouncilonhousing.org – for answers to a variety of questions you might have, such as: your right to have a roommate, subletting your apartment, succession rights, breaking your lease, and what to do if you can’t afford the rent. And refer to their “Rent Smart” handbook. http://www.metcouncilonhousing.org/sites/default/files/rent_smarts.pdf

Lease Renewals

Unless you have a rent-regulated apartment, the landlord does not have to renew the lease. And in market-rate apartments, the landlord can raise the rent to any amount that he or she chooses.

Tenants must be familiar with rent increase laws so they are not charged more rent by their landlords than is legally allowable. There are three major categories of apartments in NYC: market-rate apartments, rent stabilized apartments, rent controlled apartments, and subsidized apartments. Each one of these apartment types has its own set of rent increase laws and guidelines.

Market-rate apartments:

There is no limitation on the allowable rent chargeable by landlords and no limit on how much landlords are permitted to increase the rent from lease to lease. The new rent must be agreed upon between the landlord and tenant. If a rent increase is not affordable the tenant’s option is to negotiate a smaller increase, if possible, or move out.

Rent Stabilized and Rent Controlled apartments:

The Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) and State of New York Division of Housing Community Renewal (DHCR) regulate increases for rent stabilized and rent controlled apartments. For rent controlled apartments, landlords must file for rent increases with the DHCR and obtain a rent increase order. If landlords obtain such an order, they can increase the rent of their apartments by 7.5% annually.

Landlords are not allowed to increase the rent mid-lease, except if landlords of rent stabilized or rent controlled apartments apply for and are granted Major Capital Improvement (MCI) increases on their properties. Once obtained, the MCI can become effective at any time.  An MCI usually refers to a building wide improvement such as a new roof, or new windows.

Making changes to the apartment

If you would like to paint the walls a different color, or make any other changes to the apartment, have your landlord approve the change in writing before you do anything.  If you don’t get your landlord’s approval, you might have trouble getting all or part of your security deposit back after you move-out.

Getting your security deposit back

  • Read your lease.  It usually states in the lease specific guidelines by the landlord regarding the return of the security deposit.  In New York State, the landlord has up to 60 days after lease termination to return the security deposit.
  • Take photos of the apartment at move-out.  Besides normal wear and tear, the apartment should not have any other damage than what was already present when you moved-in.
  • Though the apartment needs to be “broom swept” clean, it is best to either clean the apartment thoroughly yourself, or hire a cleaning service to do so.  
  • Find out where you need to return the keys and do so on the day you move-out.  Have the landlord’s agent confirm in writing that they received the keys.

If your landlord does not return the security deposit by the prescribed time, then you will need to petition your landlord in Small Claims Court.

Breaking the Lease

A lease is a binding contract. If either party violates the lease, the offending party is subject to varying penalties under law. There are certain situations in which a tenant can “break” a lease and still retain the security deposit. This depends on the circumstances regarding the termination of the lease, how quickly the landlord is able to find new a tenant for the apartment, and whether or not any damage was done beyond reasonable wear and tear to the property during the tenant’s occupancy.

If a tenant has a lease for an apartment that has become uninhabitable, as defined in the lease, and the tenant can no longer live in the apartment, the tenant is said to be a victim of constructive eviction. Constructive eviction permits the tenant to break his lease and retain the security deposit. An example of this would be a flood or a fire.

Breaking the lease for other reasons and not because the property has become uninhabitable or because the landlord has done anything wrong, generally does not entitle the tenant to a return of the security deposit, and would instead subject him to varying legal penalties for violating the contract.

If the landlord is able to immediately find another tenant to rent the apartment after a tenant breaks the lease and moves out, the landlord would have no grounds for keeping the security deposit paid by the original tenant. If the landlord, despite searching, is not able to find another tenant to rent the property, the landlord would be within rights to sue the tenant for the remaining rent owed in accordance with the lease.

If a tenant breaks the lease and moves out but leaves the rented residence damaged beyond what would be considered reasonable wear and tear, the tenant would not be able to retain the security deposit. The landlord would use the security deposit to repair the damages caused by the tenant. To protect themselves from being wrongfully accused of damaging their apartments beyond reasonable wear and tear, tenants should carefully survey their properties with their landlords and record the condition of their properties with photographs.

If you know when you sign the lease, or the lease renewal, that you might need to vacate the apartment before the lease terminates, request a “diplomatic clause” be added to the lease (see Section 6).