Things to Know About Your New York City Rental BEFORE You Sign the Lease

Welcome back to guest writer, Nikki R. Thomas, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker and New York City Blogger! Follow her blog, Nikki in NYC and be sure to read her previous article on owning a home in NYC.

After spending who knows how many hours tracking down listings and hitting the pavement, you’ve FINALLY found a great new rental! Woo hoo!

renting apartment new york city
Credit: Nikki Thomas

But wait just a second…

Before you sign the lease, be sure you’re clear on all the important points below.

**IMPORTANT NOTE – This is NOT nor is it intended to be legal advice! If you have any questions about your lease, consult a real estate attorney!!!**

  • New Rent Law Changes
    • First and foremost – be in the know about the recent changes to New York state’s rent laws. They don’t just apply to rent regulated apartments – some changes apply to market rate apartments too! For example, one super important change is that security deposits must now be returned within 14 days, as opposed to 60 days. You can learn more about them here.


  • Start Date, End Date and Price
    • These should be no brainers, but be sure you’re clear on all these points to avoid any issues or confusion down the road.


  • Renewal or Non-Renewal Notice
    • Take note of when you have to let your landlord know if you’re staying or leaving. If you give notice too late, you might be on the hook for extra fees. Yikes!


  • Pet Policies
    • Read all the rules about having your fur baby to make sure you don’t land in hot water later. And even if you don’t have a pet now, take a look just in case you change your mind later on.


  • Alterations and Changes
    • Don’t assume that because something isn’t “heavy duty” construction that you can just do it. Be sure you understand what you can and can’t change in the apartment. It’s generally best to err on the side of caution and ask your landlord before you do anything. Yes, even painting.


  • Apartment Maintenance
    • Lots of things will be your landlord’s responsibility but others will be yours. For example, did you know that when you have private outdoor space, many landlords will require you to keep the drains clear? Yep. Take the time to understand what you’re responsible for maintaining!

nyc apartment

  • Repair Requests
    • Ask your landlord how repair requests will be handled. Do they have an online system? Do you need to send an email? Is the building super live-in or off premises? You don’t want to end up with an overflowing toilet and no idea who you should call!


  • Move Out Procedures
    • Each landlord has their own requirements for what a tenant has to do when they move out. Be sure you’re clear on what’s expected of you so you can get your security deposit back.


  • Apartment Showings
    • Towards the end of your lease, your landlord will want to have access to your apartment so it can be shown to prospective renters. Sometimes they want access during the last 60 days. Sometimes they want access during the last four months. Sometimes they only want access during normal business hours and a few hours on the weekend. And other times, they want you to grant access as long as they give you 24 hours’ notice. Make sure you understand what’s expected of you – otherwise, you could be looking at additional fees for not granting access for showings!


  • Building and Apartment Restrictions
    • Don’t assume that just because it’s your apartment that you can do whatever you want. Check to see if your landlord has things like (but not limited to) smoking restrictions, visitor and/or overnight guest restrictions, storage restrictions and restricted roof access.


Interested in getting more tips about New York City rentals? Get my FREE renter’s guide when you sign up for my email list! Click here to get it.

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