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Rent Coach: Should I insist on getting a copy of my signed lease BEFORE I move in?

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Q. I recently signed an apartment lease and paid first month’s rent, the security deposit, and a broker’s fee.  There are renovations being completed now but I should be moving in within a week or two. 

I was just informed that a copy of the countersigned lease would be mailed to me after I move in.  Should I be concerned that I won’t have it before that?  Should I insist that I get it now?

A. Absolutely!  You want to make sure that the landlord has in fact agreed to all of the terms.  If, for example, the landlord were to make a change to the lease (e.g. the dates, the monthly rental or by crossing something out or writing something in), you want to know now that there is a problem.  These are the kinds of disputes that can end up in housing court when they’re not discovered until after the fact. 

Further, until you have a lease signed by both parties, you don’t have a binding contract.  That means it is possible that your money could be returned to you along with an unsigned copy of the lease and an apology that “it didn’t work out.” 

Tenants should always request a fully-executed (i.e. signed by both parties) copy of the lease at the lease signing.  If the landlord does not attend the lease signing, request that it be provided within the next couple of days.   


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.     

Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.

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