Sales Market

No porn allowed—and 6 other weird things your landlord can demand

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | November 10, 2015 - 8:59AM

Think musicians are the only ones with outrageous riders? Think again. Landlords often add them—addendums with unique rules and restrictions—to their standard leases.

The most common riders have to do with window guards (homes with children under 10 years old must have them) and disclosures on lead-based paint. But just last week we were surprised to hear about a landlord  who asked for tenants to take down a $2 million insurance policy and only to use specified cleaning products. And apparently it's all totally legal. 

"You can add anything into a rider, and agree on anything in a rider, as long as it's legal," says Dean Roberts, a lawyer with Norris, McLaughlin & Morris, a BrickUnderground sponsor. What's not legal: Anything that discriminates against someone's race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Many leases will ban smoking or pets of a certain weight or breed. Also totally fine (though a landlord can't ban service dogs—that can be considered discrimination against a person with disabilities). Other provisions? Here are more that have actually appeared on NYC riders, and are legally A-OK.

1. No harsh chemicals
Roberts once helped draft a rider specifying that a tenant couldn't use any harsh chemicals or cleaning products. "Someone on the same floor complained about fumes all the time, so the landlord decided to write it into the rider," he says. But is it enforceable? "In theory, if the woman had started having an allergic reaction, we could have found out if the tenant wasn't complying," he says. 

Many landlords will ban the use of chemical pipe cleaners like Drano for fear of what it can do to all the pipes in surrounding apartments.

2. Banning other products
Kevin Kemble, a broker with Citi Habitats, tells us he's seen certain household items banned altogether. One landlord he worked with specified the kind of sticky tack renters could use to hang things on the wall. Another landlord banned future renters from using insulating foam after someone used it to close up a gap in their window. "That's the stuff you use in suburban basements," says Kemble. "It made the apartment look like a drug den."

3. No pornography
Yes, you read that right. One broker at a boutique NYC brokerage  (who asked to remain anonymous) told us he worked with a client who had a "no obscenity" rider. "No magazines, movies, Internet content that would be considered 'adult' or obscene. And the client wouldn't sign the lease," he says.  "No obscenity clauses are standard in commercial leases," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (full disclosure: he's a BrickUnderground sponsor). He's never seen one in a residential lease, though, and says it's probably unenforceable, though legal to request.

4. No Airbnb-ing
Many landlords will specifically mention that renters can't put apartments on Airbnb, and Himmelstein says that's totally legit, given the fact that most of the time these Airbnb posts are illegal, anyway.

5. Rental insurance required
It's very common for landlords to require their tenants to take out insurance—usually up to about $1 million. In fact, Himmelstein, who rents out part of the Brooklyn house he lives in, requires  both liability and renters insurance of his tenants. "That's something both my insurance company and mortgage company require."

6. Carpeting specifics
Kemble of Citi Habitats told us he once worked with a Brooklyn landlord who specified which types of rugs her tenants should buy in order to comply with the 80 percent carpeting rule. In some cases ISBN numbers were included.

7. Fines for overstaying a lease
Some landlords will place holdover fees in their riders. Kemble, who is a landlord himself, does it. And legally speaking, if you stay over your allotted time on the lease, you're expected to pay market rate for each day. "Courts have even upheld double rent clauses," says Himmelstein.

Something to keep in mind...
A long, detailed rider could be a sign of trouble. "I wouldn't want to rent from someone who has a lot of requests upfront, it could mean they're going to be a pretty difficult landlord."


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