WHAT IS A LEASE?
A lease is a contract between a landlord and a tenant which contains the terms and conditions of the rental.
It cannot be changed while it is in effect unless both parties agree. Leases for apartments which are not rent stabilized
may be oral or written. However, to avoid disputes the parties may wish to enter into a written agreement. A party must sign
the lease in order to be bound by its terms. An oral lease for more than one year cannot be legally enforced. General Obligations
Law § 5-701.
a minimum, leases should identify the premises, specify the names and addresses of the parties, the amount and due dates of
the rent, the duration of the rental, the conditions of occupancy, and the rights and obligations of both parties. Except
where the law provides otherwise, a landlord may rent on such terms and conditions as are agreed to by the parties.
Any changes to the lease should
be initialed by both parties. New York City rent stabilized tenants are entitled to receive from their landlords a fully executed
copy of their signed lease within 30 days of the landlord’s receipt of the lease signed by the tenant. The lease’s
beginning and ending dates must be stated. Rent stabilized tenants must also be given a rent stabilization lease rider, prepared
by DHCR, which summarizes their rights under the law and provides specific information on how the rent was calculated.
Leases must use words with common and everyday meanings and must be clear and coherent. Sections of leases
must be appropriately captioned and the print must be large enough to be read easily. General Obligations Law § 5-702;
NY C.P.L.R. § 4544.
following lease provisions are void:
- Exempting landlords from liability for injuries to persons or property caused by the landlord’s negligence,
or that of the landlord’s employees or agents
the tenant’s right to a jury trial in any lawsuit brought by either of the parties against the other for personal injury
or property damage
- Requiring tenants to
pledge their household furniture as security for rent
Obligations Law § 5-321; Real Property Law • § 259-c and § 231.
If a lease states that the landlord may recover attorney’s
fees and costs incurred if a lawsuit arises, a tenant automatically has a reciprocal right to recover those fees as well.
Real Property Law § 234.
the court finds a lease or any lease clause to have been unconscionable at the time it was made, the court may refuse to enforce
the lease or the clause in question. Real Property Law § 235-c.
non-rent regulated apartments, a tenant may only renew the lease with the consent of the landlord and may be subject to eviction
at the end of the lease term. However, a lease may contain an automatic renewal clause. In such case, the landlord must give
the tenant advance notice of the existence of this clause between 15 and 30 days before the tenant is required to notify the
landlord of an intention not to renew the lease. General Obligations Law § 5-905.
Rent stabilized tenants have a right to a one or two year renewal
lease, which must be on the same terms and conditions as the prior lease. A landlord’s acceptance of a Section 8 subsidy
is one such term which must be continued on a renewal lease. Landlords may refuse to renew a lease only in certain enumerated
circumstances, such as when the tenant is not using the premises as a primary residence. For New York City rent stabilized
tenants, the landlord must give timely written notice to the tenant of the right to renewal as required by law.
After the notice of renewal is
given, the tenant has 60 days in which to accept. If the tenant does not accept the renewal offer within the prescribed time,
the landlord may refuse to renew the lease and seek to evict the tenant through court proceedings. If the tenant accepts the
renewal offer, the landlord has 30 days to return the fully executed lease to the tenant. Until returned to the tenant, the
lease is not effective, and therefore the rent increase portion need not be paid.
who do not have leases and pay rent on a monthly basis are called "month-to-month" tenants. In localities without
s, tenants who stay past the end of a lease are treated as month-to-month tenants if the landlord
accepts their rent. (Real Property Law § 232-c)
A month-to-month tenancy outside New York City may be terminated by either party by giving at
least one month’s notice before the expiration of the tenancy. For example, if the landlord wants the tenant to move
out by November 1 and the rent is due on the first of each month, the landlord must give notice by September 30. In New York
City, 30 days’ notice is required, rather than one month.
The termination notice need not specify why the landlord seeks possession of
the apartment, only that the landlord elects to terminate the tenancy and that refusal to vacate will lead to eviction proceedings.
Such notice does not automatically allow the landlord to evict the tenant.
A landlord may raise the rent of a month-to-month tenant with the consent of
the tenant. If the tenant does not consent, however, the landlord can terminate the tenancy by giving appropriate notice.
Real Property Law § 232-a and § 232-b.