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Rent Coach: Should I get a rental inspected by a pro before signing the lease?

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Q. I'm relocating from Hong Kong to NYC with my family for a new job at a tech-focused venture capital firm.

The firm has given me a generous housing stipend, and I would like to find a townhouse to rent. However, I'm concerned about taking on the responsibility for mechanical systems, roof, plumbing, appliances, etc.

Can you recommend a good property inspector?

A.  Professional property inspections are not customary when leasing residential real estate in NYC.  Though you should have the opportunity to do a walk-through of the townhouse with the landlord or their agent prior to signing the lease, you would not typically have an opportunity to bring a professional engineer or inspector to draft a report on the condition of the property.

Fortunately, unlike some commercial leases (or residential leases in some parts of the world), the obligation to keep the building in good working order remains with the landlord during the term of your lease. Maintenance and property taxes are included in your rent. 

Every residential lease in New York also includes an implied Warranty of Habitability that obligates the landlord to maintain a livable, safe, and sanitary environment.  However, this legal standard creates a relatively low threshold for the owner to satisfy, so you may want to speak with your broker and/or attorney to ensure that the lease agreement you enter into properly addresses any concerns you may have about the upkeep of the property. 

Lastly, make sure that all conditions that the landlord or their agent verbally agrees to address during your walkthrough are specifically noted in your lease. 


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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