Rent Coach

Rent Coach: Sublet or scam, temporary wall rights

By Mike Akerly  | August 11, 2011 - 8:15AM

Q. I’m interested in renting an apartment that the current tenant has subleased and that has four months left on the lease.  I have agreed to move in and pay the last four month’s rent, after which time the tenant will contact the management company with our request to sign a lease.  Can any problems arise out of this?

A. The sub-tenant likely does not have the right to sublet the apartment without the management company’s approval and probably has no legal right to be there themselves.  You do risk the possibility of eviction.  That process can take months, but you generally don’t want to have a Housing Court history as a defendant. 

Also, there is a popular scam in which tenants who are already being evicted advertise the apartment to sublet it, collect cash from the prospective sub-tenant and keep it for themselves, and then move out never to be heard from again.  All this being said, people do sublet all the time.

Keep in mind that you have no guarantee what the rent will be if the landlord allows you to take over the lease in four months.  Don’t assume it will be what the last tenant was paying.  They will also require you to go through the entire application process, which is typically quite rigorous in Manhattan.

Q. Do I need my landlord’s permission to install temporary walls in my apartment?

A. Absolutely. 

Almost every lease requires the tenant to obtain advance permission before making any alterations to the property.  They also typically require the tenant to return the apartment to the landlord in its original condition, so make sure you discuss that issue with your landlord as well and get an agreement in writing. 

Temporary walls are a tricky issue because improper installations may violate building codes and they may require a permit from the Department of Buildings.  Because of this, many landlords have a policy disallowing them or they may insist that you hire a contractor that they have pre-approved. 

Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. Rent Coach also appears in AM New York's Thursday real estate section.


Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.