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Drafting leases for New York City apartment rentals

Getting into the New York City rental market can be an excellent way to turn residential real estate into a valuable income stream. However, being a landlord is not as easy as simply purchasing an apartment building and watching the money roll in. New York City has a number of strict laws that govern rental housing, and a successful career as a landlord depends on careful compliance with those regulations.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of being a landlord is drafting a lease that protects your interests while also complying with municipal and state laws. Because the rules governing leases are so strict, it is always a good idea to have an experienced New York real estate attorney help draft the lease.

With that said, there are some basic principals governing all residential leases in New York City. Keeping these considerations in mind can help you decide how to draft a lease that best meets your needs:

  • Clear drafting: Leases must be drafted in clear language with common and everyday vocabulary. In addition, all sections must be clearly labeled and the lease must use a font size that can be read easily. In a dispute, courts will look very unfavorably on lease terms that cannot be clearly understood by the average person.
  • Renewals: The rules for renewal vary based on whether the apartment is rent-regulated. In non-rent regulated apartments, a landlord is not required to agree to a tenant's lease renewal. If the landlord wants to rent to someone else, he or she has the right to evict the tenant at the end of the lease term. Landlords can include automatic renewal clauses in leases, but they must give proper notice to their tenants.

In rent stabilized apartments, tenants have a right to renew their lease on the same terms and conditions as the previous rental agreement. Landlords may only refuse to renew under certain limited circumstances. The new rent will be increased pursuant to the annual Rent Guidelines Order issued by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board.

  • Roommates: New York law prohibits landlords from limiting occupancy to only the named tenant. Tenants are allowed to share the home with their immediate family, and, if only one tenant is listed, an additional occupant and his or her dependent children.
  • Subletting: Similarly, landlords of rent regulated apartments may not completely prohibit tenants from subletting their apartments. However, tenants must ask for permission to sublet or otherwise assign their lease, and they must provide landlords with specific information as set forth in Section 226 (b) of the New York Real Property Law. Landlords may only refuse permission if there is good cause.

These are just a few of the issues that are relevant for new landlords who are trying to decide how to structure their leases. If you are thinking about getting into the New York rental real estate market, be sure to consult with an experienced attorney who can make sure your lease complies with the law.

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