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Leases (Security Deposits, Roommates, Sublets, and More)

Leases (Security Deposits, Roommates, Sublets, and More)
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Overview

Leases is an extensive subject that covers a variety of topics, including vacancy leases, renewal leases, security deposits, roommates, subletting, and more. There are several publications below that explore these topics in detail.

 

For overviews of vacancy leases, renewal leases, rent increases, preferential rent, and the lease rider, see the Fact Sheet section. For the lease rider, the renewal lease form, and the complaint form for an owner’s failure to renew the lease or provide a copy of the signed lease, see the Forms section.

 

 

Vacancy and Renewal Leases in Rent Stabilized Apartments

At the signing of a lease, owners of rent stabilized apartments may charge tenants a rent increase based on guidelines that are annually established by the applicable Rent Guidelines Board. 

 

Vacancy Leases

 

Individuals who rent a rent stabilized apartment for the first time sign a vacancy lease. A vacancy lease states the terms and conditions of the lease, the length of the lease, and the rights and responsibilities of the tenant and the owner. Tenants are entitled to select a one or two year lease term. A completed lease rider or addenda must be attached to the vacancy lease and future renewal leases.

 

In NYC, owners must also provide the vacancy lease tenant with form DBB-N, Notice to Tenant: Disclosure of Bedbug Infestation History, which sets forth the property’s bedbug infestation history for the previous year. For more information on vacancy leases, see Fact Sheet #5. For historical vacancy lease calculations, see Fact Sheet #26.

 

Renewal Leases

 

Tenants have the right to select a one or two year lease term when renewing their lease. Generally, the renewal lease must keep the same conditions and terms as the expiring lease.

 

In NYC, owners must give written notice of renewal by mail or personal delivery not more than 150 days and not less than 90 days before the existing lease expires. Outside of NYC, owners must first sign and date the renewal notice, and then send it by certified mail not more than 120 days and not less than 90 days before the existing lease expires.

 

Tenants that do not receive their renewal lease within the specified time should first contact the owner to obtain a lease. If the owner fails to provide a renewal lease, the tenant has a right to file a lease complaint by filing form RA-90, Tenant’s Complaint of Failure to Renew Lease and/or Furnish a Copy of a Signed Lease, with the Office of Rent Administration (ORA).

 

Tenants are required to sign and return the lease within 60 days. Tenants who fail to sign and return the lease within this time frame may become at risk of legal action.

 

For more information on renewal leases, see Fact Sheet #4.

 

Leases for Rent Controlled Apartments

 

In general, when a rent control tenancy commenced, the tenant signed an initial lease setting forth the terms and conditions of their tenancy. Rent control tenants are not required to sign renewal leases, as these tenancies are statutory.

 

Preferential Rent and Surcharges and Fees

Preferential Rent

 

Tenants pay the legal rent set for the apartment or, if offered by the owner, can choose to pay a preferential rent. A preferential rent is a rent that an owner agrees to charge that is lower than the legal regulated rent that the owner could lawfully collect.

 

Any tenant paying a preferential rent on or after June 14, 2019, retains the preferential rent for the life of the tenancy. Lease guideline increases and other lawful increases must be applied to the preferential rent. However, certain government regulatory agreement/financed affordable housing programs may not be bound by this limitation. Owners or tenants should contact the supervising government agency for more information.

 

For more information on preferential rent, see Fact Sheet #40.

 

Surcharges and Fees

 

Owners may charge tenants certain fees such as late fees and surcharges such as air conditioners and washing machines that are separate and apart from the rent. For more information on surcharges and fees, visit our Surcharges and Fees page.

 

Surcharges and Fees

 

 

Security Deposits

Owners can collect a security deposit from tenants who sign a vacancy lease. The security deposit can be no more than one month’s rent. A violation of this is under DHCR’s jurisdiction. When the lease is renewed at a higher rental amount, or the rent is increased during the term of the lease, the owner is entitled to collect additional money from the tenant to bring the security deposit up to the new monthly rent.

 

The security deposit must be kept by the owner in an interest-bearing account in a New York State bank. The return of a security deposit is under the jurisdiction of the court.

 

For more information on security deposits and other charges, see Fact Sheet #9.

 

Adding Names to the Lease

In a rent stabilized apartment, the tenant has the right, upon request to the owner, to have the name of his or her legal spouse added to the upcoming renewal lease as an additional tenant, if the spouse resides in the apartment as a primary residence.

 

Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) shall construe the terms “spouse,” “husband” and “wife” to encompass legal same-sex marriages performed inside or outside of New York State. There is no rent increase associated with this change, other than the approved renewal lease increase rates in effect at the time of renewal.

 

The owner is not required to add any non-spouse to a lease. However, a non-spouse could have some protections if they establish succession rights. For more information on succession, visit our Succession page.

 

Succession

Roommates and Sublets

Roommates

When only one tenant is named on a lease, the tenant has the right to take in a roommate and the roommate's dependent children. When two or more tenants are named on the lease, the number of tenants and roommates cannot exceed the number of tenants named in the lease.

 

In all situations, occupancy may be restricted in order to comply with municipal regulations concerning overcrowding.

 

Rent Stabilized Roommates

In a rent stabilized apartment, the rent collected from a roommate cannot exceed their proportionate share of the apartment. For example, if the tenant has one roommate, that roommate can’t be charged more than half of the total rent. The roommate can submit an overcharge complaint with ORA if he or she was charged in excess of that proportionate share.

 

Rent Control Roommates

In a rent controlled apartment, a roommate may not be charged an amount of rent that is in excess of the legal rent for the apartment. A roommate can submit an overcharge complaint with ORA if he or she was charged in excess of the legal rent.

 

For more information on overcharge, visit our Rent Increases and Rent Overcharge page.

 

Rent Increases and Rent Overcharge

 

Sublets

 

A tenant who sublets an apartment to another person is the prime tenant. The person to whom the apartment is sublet is the subtenant. For more information on the differences between rent stabilization and rent control sublets and proper procedures to legally sublet an apartment, see Fact Sheet #7.

Pets

The right to have a pet in a rent stabilized or rent controlled apartment is largely dependent on the terms of the lease. Owners cannot charge fees for the right to have a pet as this would constitute an unlawful rent increase.

For more information on the New York City Pet Law and related legal issues, see FAQ #9 in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) How much of an increase in rent will I have to pay in NYC when my lease is renewed?

The owner may charge a rent increase based on guidelines promulgated by the applicable Rent Guidelines Board. In certain instances, the rent increase may be calculated to include applicable Major Capital Improvement or Individual Apartment Improvement increases. For more information, see Fact Sheet #26 and/or the NYC Rent Guidelines Board's website for the current guideline information.

 

2) Do I have a right to renew my lease?

Tenants in rent stabilized apartments have a right to select a one- or two-year renewal lease term. Generally, the renewal lease must keep the same terms and conditions as the expiring lease. For more information, see Fact Sheet #4.

 

3) Under rent stabilization in NYC, when must the renewal lease be offered?

The owner must give written notice of renewal by mail or personal delivery not more than 150 days and not less than 90 days before the existing lease expires. A failure of the tenant to respond within 60 days of the offering may lead to eviction proceedings. For more information, see Fact Sheet #4.

 

4) What if my owner does not offer me a renewal lease?

A tenant should first contact the owner to obtain a lease. If the owner fails to provide a renewal lease, the tenant has a right to file a complaint with DHCR on form RA-90, Tenant's Complaint Of Owner's Failure To Renew Lease And/Or Failure To Furnish A Copy of A Signed Lease. For more information, see Fact Sheet #4.

 

5) Are the spouses in lawfully performed same sex marriages, entitled to the same rent protections applicable to spouses in lawfully performed opposite sex marriages?

Yes. This will broaden the scope of both how succession rights can apply and the right to include the name of a spouse on the lease.

 

6) Does a tenant in a rent stabilized apartment have the right to add their spouse's name to the lease?

Yes. The tenant has the right to request that the owner add the name of his or her spouse to the lease as an additional tenant, if the spouse resides in the apartment as a primary residence. The owner is required to add the additional names at the time of lease renewal. There is no rent increase associated with this change, other than the approved renewal lease increase rates in effect at the time of renewal.

 

7) Is the landlord permitted to collect additional security deposit money at the time of a lease renewal, while a DHCR rent reduction order is in effect?

Yes, provided that the landlord has offered, and the tenant has accepted a lease renewal. This includes rent reductions for fire damaged or vacant order apartments where the rent has been reduced to $1.00.

 

8) My building owners thought that I no longer used my apartment as my primary residence due to my annual winter residency in Florida. As a result, they did not offer me a timely lease renewal. However, they failed to prove this in court and now have to offer me a renewal lease. When does it commence and what are my rights?

In New York City, renewal leases are required to be offered between 90 and 150 days prior to the expiration of a lease.

In this situation, the owners would offer a renewal lease less than 90 days prior to the expiration of the existing lease. Therefore, the tenant has the option of requesting that the lease be dated to start on (1) the date a renewal lease would have begun had a timely offer been made or (2) on the first rent payment date occurring at least 90 days after the date that the owner does offer the lease to the tenant.

The guideline increase to be charged can never be more than the rate in effect on the date in option (1). Whether the tenant chooses option (1) or (2), the new rent shall not go into effect before the first rent payment date occurring at least 90 days after the offer is made. For more information, see Fact Sheet #4.

While primary residence issues are exclusively determined by the courts, the rent stabilization code mentions several factors to be taken into consideration when making a determination. These factors include but are not limited to the addresses on tax returns, motor vehicle registrations, driver licenses, voting addresses, and occupancy of a housing accommodation of less than 183 days.

 

9) My first lease contained a provision that prohibited the possession of pets on the rental property. However, I bought a dog and it has been living in the apartment with me for four years. The owner is threatening to not renew my lease and/or to evict me because of my insistence on keeping my pet. What are my rights?

The right to own a pet is determined largely by lease provisions but is also subject to N.Y.C Admin. Code Sec. 27-2009.1, commonly called the “Pet Law.” Issues arising under the Pet Law are not decided by this agency. Matters that cannot be settled between the parties should be brought to court.

The Pet Law provides in part that where a tenant harbors a pet for three months or more and the owner or his/her agent has knowledge of this fact, but fails within this three month period to proceed to court to enforce the lease provision that prohibits pets, the lease provision shall be deemed waived.

However, the lease provision cannot be waived if the pet damages the premises, creates a nuisance, or interferes with the health, safety, or welfare of other tenants.

To view Section 27-2009.1 , see page 12 of the NYC Housing Maintenance Code.

 

10) An apartment subject to rent control is vacated. It is now being rented as rent stabilized for the first time. Can the owner charge the tenant a preferential rent that is less than the Initial rent stabilized rent?

No. The rent actually charged and paid by the first stabilized tenant is the initial rent stabilized rent. Therefore, there cannot be a preferential rent.

Fact Sheets

Forms