Rent Coach

Rent Coach: I installed a washer-dryer in my rental. Can my landlord make me take it out?

By Mike Akerly  | February 14, 2013 - 10:01AM

Q. After a five year stint in an elevator building in Murray Hill, I moved into a walkup building in the Village last year. I love the apartment and the neighborhood, but the move required some sacrifices, not the least of which is the lack of laundry facilities in my new building.

For the first six months I paid to have my laundry picked-up and dropped off each week. After seeing the bill each month, I decided I might be better off if I just paid to have a washer-dryer installed in my apartment. I bought a ventless washer/dryer, had it delivered, and had a licensed plumber install it in my kitchen.

Last week my super was in my apartment to look at my ceiling after my upstairs neighbor had a plumbing problem.  I guess he took note of my new W/D because yesterday I received a letter from my landlord demanding that I remove it.

I don’t want to remove the unit and even if I agreed to do so, I think the landlord should have to pay for the expense of the installation and removal if he doesn’t want it in my apartment.

What should I do?

A. Landlords are often concerned that equipment such as washer/dryers will overload the wiring in the building or that a leak will result in significant damage to your apartment and those of your neighbors. If they do not control the installation process they may also be concerned that it was not handled in a way that sufficiently protects against potential liabilities.

Thus, it’s not uncommon for residential leases to have an explicit prohibition on the installation of items such as washer/dryers or dishwashers without your landlord’s express written consent. Even if there is no such explicit prohibition, the lease almost certainly has a more general provision prohibiting you from making any changes or alterations to the apartment.

If your lease prohibits changes or alterations to your apartment and you nonetheless make such changes, you are in default of the lease. That gives the landlord certain contractual remedies. Typically, the landlord would send the tenant a Notice to Cure demanding the condition (i.e. the washer/dryer) be returned to its original state.

After receiving a letter like this, as you have, you could remove the washer/dryer in order to cure your default of the lease and all would likely be well. In no event would the landlord be responsible for reimbursing you for any expense related to this. 

If you fail to remove the washer/dryer in the specified time frame, your landlord can move to evict you.

Alternatively, you could reach out to the landlord and ask if there is a way that he could get comfortable with the installation.

Perhaps he would consider this if you offered to pay an additional security deposit, allowed the super to inspect the installation to determine if it was done to their standards, and demonstrated that you maintain renter’s insurance naming the landlord as an additional insured that would provide coverage in the event that your washer/dryer caused some form of damage to the building.

Presumably the last thing you want is to be served with paperwork to appear in Housing Court, so whichever route you choose to pursue, do so in a timely fashion and in accordance with the instructions provided in the letter you received from the landlord. 

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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