Nadel & Ciarlo, P.C.

New York City Real Estate Law Blog

Tenants need to ask their potential landlords these questions

When people look at a home or apartment to rent, it's easy to get caught up in just checking out the physical space. If it "feels" like home, then you'll want to rent it as soon as possible.

While going with your gut isn't always bad, it's important not to get so caught up in the excitement that you fail to really consider what signing that lease means. Here are a few questions tenants should ask landlords in advance:

  • Will the rent be pro-rated if you do not move in or out on the first of the month?
  • Does the lease have a natural end date?
  • If you want to re-sign at that time, do you get the first option over anyone else?
  • If you have to break the lease -- maybe you get a job in another city -- what are the penalties?
  • Can you have pets in the home or apartment? What other house rules are there?
  • Do you need to put the utilities in your name and pay them separately, or are they included in the rent?
  • What is the best way to pay the rent?
  • When moving out, what is the system for determining if the entire security deposit goes back to you, as the tenant, and how does that happen? If approved, how long will it take? Why might you get less than the full amount?

What is an underwater mortgage?

Buying real estate is not necessarily a sure thing. The market moves, often unexpectedly. What appears to be a great price for a home one year may not look nearly so strong just a few years later.

An underwater mortgage is one that has been negatively impacted by the market, as the value of the home drops -- perhaps dramatically, perhaps not -- and falls under what is still owed on that mortgage. It's not just less than the price paid when the home was purchased, but under the amount that is left.

Tips for landlord-tenant communication

Issues between landlords and tenants often go far further than they need to when the two do not communicate well. A landlord who doesn't respond quickly may anger a tenant who thinks that it means the landlord doesn't respect their wishes. A tenant who communicates in an aggressive way may offend a landlord who feels personally attacked for every little thing that happens in the home or apartment.

So, how can both sides keep things from escalating? Good communication is vital in this relationship -- as in many others, from business relationships to marriages -- and it can help them avoid a lot of issues. Here are some important tips:

  • Remember that everyone deserves to be treated well.
  • Always be honest.
  • Attempt to be as transparent as possible.
  • Talk to one another in a respectful manner.
  • Try not to take things personally.
  • Remember that the other person is just that: a person. We're all people. We have lives, wishes, hopes, dreams, shortcomings, schedules, needs and much more. When people realize how similar they are, it helps them get along.

How many renters are there in the United States?

How likely you are to rent may depend on a whole host of factors, such as your age, the cost of living in your area and your financial stability. But, if you want to look at the big picture, let's take a look at how many people choose to rent.

The reality is that the numbers are sky-high. A report from 2017, for instance, noted that there were more renters in America than there had been since all the way back in 1965. The report put it at 36.6%. That's slightly more than a third, or one out of every three people. It is worth noting that the report just looked at "household heads" so as not to skew the statistics with families all renting or owning under the same roof.

Buying low in New York may mean purchasing a short sale property

In general, New York has one of the most expensive real estate markets on the East Coast, as well as one of the most competitive in the country. Potential buyers and homeowners often struggle to find a property that fits their needs that they can successfully make an offer on. However, some properties just won't sell.

The issue with the property not selling usually stems from a discrepancy between the price the seller wants to charge and the perceived value of the property. Some sellers simply have unrealistic expectations for financial gains on a real estate transaction, while others may only want desperately to get out from under the burden of an upside-down mortgage.

The basics of rental security deposits in New York

Security deposits exist to protect a landlord's interest in a property. Irresponsible tenants could cause substantial damage to a unit well beyond the standard wear and tear likely during a rental period. If a tenant leaves without finishing their lease or if they cause major damage, the security deposit on the unit helps reimburse the landlord for their losses.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about the rights of tenants and landlords to the funds from a security deposit. Understanding what New York allows and does not allow makes it easier for both parties to assert their rights and comply with the law.

Overcoming a dispute with your neighbors

Having a good relationship with those who live close to you can add quality to your life and give you a sense of community. Even if you are not on particularly good terms with your neighbors, you likely do what you can to keep things civil. However, if you are finding that your neighbor's behavior is no longer tolerable, you may be curious as to how the law could help you.

The options you have regarding resolving an existing dispute with a neighbor will largely depend on the nature of that dispute. The following are some tips on how to handle some of the most common neighbor disputes.

What does your pre-qualified mortgage mean?

You want to buy a home or apartment in New York, and so you reach out to a mortgage lender. They ask you for some information, you provide it, and then they tell you that you are pre-qualified for a certain amount of money. What does this really mean?

The biggest pitfall here is that people -- especially first-time homebuyers -- often assume that they are guaranteed that much money. They cannot believe how fast and easy it was, but they think that's what they can spend.

Information that should be in a lease

Whether you are a landlord drafting a lease for a new property or a tenant considering the lease before signing -- it's very important to read through it carefully -- you need to know what should be in that document. It's a legal contract that helps define your rights and roles moving forward. It's more than just the price of the home or apartment.

So, what should be in the lease? A few key things include:

  • How much the monthly payments will be
  • If there are discounted options, such as a one-time yearly payment
  • The amount of the deposit
  • The exact dates and times that the agreement covers
  • The physical address that the property occupies
  • What unit the person is renting out, if applicable
  • The landlord's name and the basic contact details
  • The date on which the two entered into the agreement by signing the lease
  • Any options to renew the lease and how they work
  • Rent increase policies
  • Payment options
  • What appliances and furnishings the unit comes with
  • What the policy is for keeping the deposit
  • A checklist for previous damage to the apartment
  • What happens if the tenant misses a payment
  • If the tenant gets a grace period or not
  • Whether or not the utilities are included and, if so, which ones are
  • What the policy is for evicting a tenant
  • If the tenant is allowed to sublet the space

Understanding the laws on tenant eviction

When a person is renting an apartment or home from a landlord, they have the entitlement to security. This means that they cannot simply be evicted with no notice and with no reason. However, since the landlord legally owns the property, the landlord can evict the tenant under certain circumstances.

Both landlords and tenants should make sure that they have a good understanding of the law regarding eviction. By doing so, they will be able to act within the law at all times and stand up for their rights.

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