Rental Agreements and Leases

The agreement between you and your landlord is called a lease. Your lease is a contract between you and your landlord. It contains important information about your rental. After both you and your landlord sign the lease, it cannot be changed unless you and your landlord agree to that change and the change is made in writing and signed by you both. If your apartment is not rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, the lease does not have to be in writing if it is for less than one year. However, it is best to have a written agreement to avoid arguments and disputes later.

Your lease must use words with common and everyday meaning and must be clear. The print on your lease must be large enough to be read easily. At a minimum, your lease should cover the following subjects:

  • the length of your lease and when the lease ends;
  • the amount of rent;
  • when the rent is due;
  • where to send the rent (such as, by mail to the landlord’s business address);
  • how rent should be paid (such as, by check, money order, cash, or credit card);
  • the amount of any extra fees if your rent check bounces; and
  • what happens if you pay your rent late, including late fees and eviction.

State laws in New York cover certain issues related to your rent, such as:

  • the amount of notice your Landlord must provide to raise the rent under a month-to-month tenancy; and
  • how much time you have to pay your rent or move out before you Landlord can file for eviction.

If your lease contains any of the following provisions, the court will not enforce them against you, and will consider the provisions void:

  • stating your landlord is not responsible for any injuries to persons or property caused by the landlord’s wrongdoing;
  • stating that you will give your household furniture as security for rent; or
  • stating that you take the apartment “as is” or that you waive your rights under the Warranty of Habitability law.

If your lease states that your landlord can make you pay attorney’s fees and costs if there is a lawsuit regarding the lease or the apartment, then you will automatically have the same right to make the landlord pay your attorneys fees and costs if you win the lawsuit.

If you do not have a lease, or your lease expired, you pay rent on a monthly basis. This is called a “month-to-month tenancy.” In order to end a month-to-month tenancy, either you or your landlord must give at least one month’s notice before the end of the month. For a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord does not have to give you a reason for terminating.

In New York City, the landlord must provide you with a written notice of termination giving 30 days notice that you will have to move before the end of the month. The notice must state that your landlord wants to terminate the tenancy and that an eviction proceeding will be started if you do not move out by the date listed in the notice.

Legal Editor: Jennifer Addonizio Rozen, December 2014

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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