Residential Buildings with Fire Escapes on the Upper East Side of New York City

Waiting for your landlord could buy some more time if they plan to raise your rent.

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My landlord hasn’t yet sent me a lease renewal. My lease is up in May and I’ve lived here for over three years. Should I ask him for it?

In your case, your landlord is legally required to send you a renewal—or let you know they don't intend to renew your lease—90 days in advance. But it might not be in your best interest to request a renewal, says Sam Himmelstein, an attorney at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Joseph who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.

Thanks to the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act passed in 2019, if you’ve lived in your apartment less than a year then landlords are required to give 30 days’ notice if they are raising your rent more than 5 percent or not renewing your lease. If you’ve lived there for more than one year but less than two, they must give 60 days’ notice. And if you’ve been there for two years or more, they have to give you a heads up 90 days in advance.

So your landlord is late but consider whether it’s worth reaching out to him now.

“Why rock the boat?” Himmelstein says. “Part of the 90-day requirement is that the 90th day has to be the end of the month, so if your landlord wants to terminate your lease or raise your rent, and they serve you with a notice today—March 22th—the tenancy wouldn’t be terminated  until June 30th.”

Waiting on him can buy you more time, in other words. And if you do hear from your landlord and he plans to raise your rent, you should try to negotiate.

“It’s a contract—they can’t just impose a higher rent on you. Rent is a contractual obligation. You have to agree to it,” Himmelstein says. “Some landlords are open to negotiation. If you’ve been a good tenant who pays the rent on time, it helps to point that out.”

Landlords of market-rate apartments do have the right to raise the rent as much as they want, and to find a new tenant who will pay the higher rate if you refuse—provided they give you the required notice of termination of your lease. But there are a few factors on your side, too. If the landlord keeps you on, they won’t have any downtime with an empty apartment, nor will they need to hire a broker to find a new tenant or do any work to fix the place up. This may be worth pointing out as well.

And if you never receive a lease renewal at all, you’ll become a month-to-month tenant. While there is some precarity to this arrangement—the landlord can ask you to leave at any time, as long as they give you the required notice—there are upsides, too.

“It gives you the flexibility to leave at any time,” Himmelstein says. “In a lease, you’re locked in for the duration of that lease. There are ways to get out of it, but it’s not easy. If you’re month-to-month, you can move out at any time.”


Ask Sam: I saw my apartment on a listing site, but I haven't received any notice from my landlord. Is that legal? (sponsored) 

Ask Sam: My landlord didn't give me the required 60 days notice of a rent hike. What can I do? (sponsored)

Ask Sam: I signed a lease with a concession, but when I renewed, my rent jumped by several hundred dollars. Can I fight this? (sponsored)

Read all our Ask a Renters Rights Lawyer columns here.

Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.

Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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