Q. About a month ago, I applied to rent an apartment in a co-op building. The landlord and I agreed that I could move-in by the first of the month, but the co-op board apparently hasn’t approved my application and hasn’t even offered me a board interview yet.
Now I’m worried that I will have no place to live when my current lease ends this week and I just want my money back. What can I do?
A. At this point, you likely have little choice but to wait for the co-op to reach a decision on your application.
When a prospective tenant applies to sublease an apartment in a co-op, the shareholder and new tenant enter into a binding lease agreement. That lease is contingent upon the co-op board’s approval, but there generally isn’t a time frame stated during which the co-op is required to make a decision.
Unfortunately, your new landlord cannot guarantee that you can move-in on a specific date because your right to do so is the subject to approval of your application, which is ultimately subject to the board members’ schedules. Some boards only meet once a month to discuss new applications. Further, everything from holidays to board member vacations can delay the setting of interview dates.
When applying to rent an apartment in a co-op it’s a good rule of thumb to expect that you will not be able to move-in for 45-60 days.
It is possible to add a rider provision to the lease permitting you to terminate the agreement if the board has not issued an approval of the application after “x” amount of days. However, it will likely be difficult to get a landlord to agree, as the apartment would need to return to market after having been an active listing, securing a tenant, and waiting all the way until the termination date only to lose that tenant and start over after losing three two to four months of rental income in the process.
Of course many times the approval (or denial) comes quickly, but there are just no guarantees.
This inconvenience is usually offset by the advantages to renting a co-op--the primary one being that they tend to be priced lower than comparable apartments in condo or rental buildings. This is because there are often issues that prospective tenants may not wish to deal with – board interviews, expensive application fees, limits on the number of years that you can rent the apartment, etc. – that the owner will need to compensate for by lowering the asking rent.
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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