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Terms to Understand in Your New York Apartment Lease

Most landlords in New York use the lease provided by the Real Estate Board of New York, or else a modified version of it.

If you're signing a lease in New York, the chances are high that you're signing one written and published in 1988 by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), a professional association of landlords. This lease is—you guessed it—pretty landlord-friendly, but it's also relatively generic. Don't be terrified if you already signed one without crossing out offensive terms or adding in more tenant-friendly ones. Below, we'll walk you through some of the most important terms.

The basics

The lease begins with the super-obvious stuff that you should check just to make sure it's all correct. Today's date? The landlord's name and address? Your name and address? After that, more obvious stuff: the address of the rental property, the length of the lease, and the amount of rent should all be filled out (and correct!).

Rent payment

The third term in New York's lease tells you to pay the rent on the first of every month at your landlord's office. Don't be confused if they don't have an office or didn't mention it—they probably just copied this lease and didn't read it. Make sure you check with them to see what process they'd prefer you to follow when paying rent. And understand your rights! Landlords in New York can't require you to pay rent electronically, for instance, even if they try to include such a clause in the lease.

Security deposit

This one is long but pretty standard: it will tell you where your security deposit will be held and that you're entitled to interest payments on it if your building has six or more units. The lease also says that the owner keeps the security deposit to cover any damages including missed rent payments—this isn't allowed everywhere, but it is in New York.

Repairs and other responsibilities

These are pretty vanilla and in line with New York laws on the conditions that an apartment needs to be kept in and what your landlord is required to fix. One bonus is that the lease actually requires your landlord to fix appliances. So if your microwave breaks—don't stress!

No landlord responsibility for advertised amenities

The out-of-the-box New York lease absolves the landlord from any responsibility to meet expectations that were made during the selling process. If a broker told you there was a gym, then you move in and realize it's permanently closed, you can't do anything about it unless you asked for it to be written into the lease.

Accepting rent during the eviction process

It's usually accepted that accepting rent can affect the status—even cancel completely—an eviction proceeding. New York law specifically says in its guidance on holdover eviction proceedings that accepting rent voids an eviction process. However, the REBNY lease says that the owner's "acceptance of rent does not prevent [them] from taking action at a later date." You can ask for this term to be changed if you'd like.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.