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Rent Coach: My roommates moved out and I want to rent our place solo. How does that work?

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Q. My roommates recently moved out of the three-bedroom we shared, and I'd like to take over the apartment and put my name on the lease. After our lease expired March 1, I covered the rent for the entire place, and I've been paying my rent without a problem for years. Still, my landlord insists that I provide proof of my income. What are my rights in this situation?

A. At this point, it sounds like you have become a month-to-month tenant without a lease.  Basically, staying past the termination of your lease on March 1, and continuing to pay rent--assuming it is accepted by your landlord--gives you the right to stay in the apartment for 30-day periods each time you pay rent.  If the landlord wishes to terminate your tenancy, they must provide you with 30 days' notice in writing.  The notice must be properly served as required by statute. 

As far as a new, solo lease, if your income satisfies the landlord’s requirements, you should provide copies of your tax returns to demonstrate it.  Most landlords require that their tenants earn 40 times the monthly rent in annual income.

If you do not meet your landlord’s income requirements, you still have options.  First, you could seek a guarantor who would sign an agreement obligating them to pay the rent if you fail to.  Guarantors typically need to make 80 times the monthly rent.  There are also for-profit guarantors that will provide this service for a fee (e.g. Insurent). 

Another option would be to speak with your landlord to see if they will accept a larger security deposit or upfront rent in lieu of their income requirement.  Depending on how close you are to satisfying their requirement, you may be able to get away with providing as little as one additional month of security deposit (though it isn’t unheard of for landlords to ask for as much as 6 months for higher risk tenants).

Lastly, you can continue with your month-to-month tenancy while you search for new roommates whose combined income can help you qualify for a new lease.  However, keep in mind that the landlord is under no obligation to continue to offer to rent you the apartment and may terminate your tenancy as described above or increase the rent.  For that reason, if you elect to seek new roommates, you may want to be transparent with your landlord by sharing your intentions and agreeing upon a time frame to secure the new roommates.

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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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