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Rent Coach: What happens when your "landlord" doesn't own the building

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Q. I signed a two year lease on an apartment earlier this year and paid a broker’s fee.  I assumed my landlord owned the building. 

However, I was just informed that he actually rents the entire building from the real owner, and the owner has declined to extend his lease past this spring. My "landlord" now says he won’t be able to honor the two year lease agreement for my apartment. 

I have a signed contract, I’ve paid my rent on time, and I paid a $4,000 broker’s fee and $3,000 security deposit before I moved in.  Can he really kick me out?

 A. Your landlord can't force you to move. However, because he did not have the right to rent the apartment to you for longer than he had the right to rent the building, the building's owner can evict you if you refuse to leave after your landlord's lease on the building expires.

Should this situation arise, you should attempt to negotiate directly with the owner to come to an amicable agreement. 

Evictions are costly for all involved, but especially for the owner if you’re not paying rent.  The owner may allow you to stay long enough for you to better amortize the broker’s fee that you paid and to solidify your next living arrangements.  Even better, the owner may be willing to honor the lease that you already have if you discuss it with him directly. 

If you are forced to leave, you may have a claim against your landlord for breaching the lease agreement that you signed.   


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.  

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