New York Apartment Fine Print

I actually received a copy of my lease yesterday, compliments of my broker. Paranoid about leases after the last time I was presented a lease, I read through it immediately.

And found lease clauses that immediately raised alarm bells.

You can imagine how suspicious I am of lease clauses, since the sleazeball broker I used LAST time tried to con me into signing a lease and moving in to an apartment that he knew damn well wouldn’t let me keep my dogs. (After all, once I’ve moved in, the broker gets to keep his/her broker fee, even if I get evicted on Day Two.) So when I saw a couple of clauses in this new lease, I feared the worse.

The first stated that I would cover most of the floors with carpet or padding, presumably to protect against too much noise disturbing the neighbors below us. But seriously — with hardwood floors, why would you want to put carpet or padding down? Isn’t the point of hardwood floors TO HAVE HARDWOOD FLOORS?

And the second one that really threw me off was a provision that stated that I was the only person allowed to live in the apartment, except for immediate family living with me at the time the lease begins. Since Sal and I aren’t married (which is actually possible in New York, thank you!) he isn’t my immediate family, and thus the language in the lease seems to expressly forbid him from living there, despite his name being listed on the rental application as a non-tenant occupant.

Of course I immediately wrote my new broker a detailed email explaining my concerns about these clauses in the lease (and other minor nitpicky gripes that aren’t worth getting into.) Being the attentive professional that he is, he called me almost immediately to discuss.

The floor thing I got over pretty quickly — this is really only a problem if the tenant below us complains about noise carrying through our floor/his ceiling. So I need to try to avoid stomping around too much, make friends quickly with them so they’ll tell US when there’s a problem instead of complaining to the landlord, and be prepared to put down some area rugs here and there if necessary. Okay, I can live with that.

The part about Sal not being able to legally live there? I’m not okay with that. The last thing I want to do is give a landlord an easy “out” if he/she wants to evict me for any reason but doesn’t have legitimate complaints to use as justification. (Probably never going to be an issue, because I’m not going to be a problem tenant, but still…)

Fortunately for me, it turns out this clause is completely unenforceable. New York law allows a tenant who is the sole name listed on a lease to have immediate family living in the home, plus another unrelated occupant and his/her children, so long as the tenant is maintaining residence there also. In fact, article after article online specifically stated that leases often include clauses saying it’s not allowed, but state law expressly blocks enforcement of those lease clauses.

What’s even better about this whole situation is that my broker went above-and-beyond to help talk me off the ledge. Being the inquisitive sort that I am, I had already done my homework when he verbally told me about the state law, and I had found it online myself… But he took the extra step to dig it up on his own also, and sent it to me in a formal letter from his company that confirmed my legal rights and his company’s guarantee (with my broker fee refunded if this turned out to ever be a problem!) that I was legally allowed to have Sal reside there with me.

Let me tell you, what had seemed like a heart-stopping setback (again!) blew over very quickly. And thank goodness, too, because I don’t know how well I would’ve handled having another apartment slip through my fingers… And only ten days before I was supposed to move in, at that!

Technically we’re not 100% confirmed yet, because I still need to sign the lease, FedEx it back, and have the landlord sign it… And I have to collect the keys and confirm that there isn’t some disastrous problem that wasn’t visible during the walk-through… But the chances of an issue developing in either of those areas are virtually none.

It’s happening — at long last, after five years of talking about it, I’m moving to New York City a week from Tuesday.

One Response to New York Apartment Fine Print

  1. […] was the month in which I signed a lease (sight unseen) for an apartment in Jackson Heights, packed up my belongings, and moved to New York […]

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