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I am a rent stabilized tenant and my lease is up for renewal. The landlord has added several riders that were not in my original lease. One asks about whether there are children age six or under in the apartment. Another asks me to list the names of all family members and roommates. Another states that I cannot have pets or install appliances. Yet another is a very long rider titled, “The Rights and Obligations of Rent Stabilized Tenants.” Are these legal?
For the most part, rent-stabilized lease renewals must have the same terms and conditions as the original lease, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.
“The landlord cannot add any riders, especially ones that restrict the tenancy in any way,” Himmelstein says.
The rent stabilization code specifies that landlords must renew stabilized leases at the legal, regulated rent and “on the same terms and conditions as the expiring lease.” And, as the Met Council on Housing points out, lease riders tend to be unfavorable to tenants.
There is, however, a handful of exceptions to this rule. Your landlord may be asking you about the presence of children under six years old because there is lead paint in your apartment.
“Some riders are required by law, and if they weren’t in the original lease, they must be in renewal leases,” Himmelstein says. “One example is a lead paint rider. For all buildings built before 1978, the landlord must disclose whether they believe there is any lead paint present because of the risk it poses to children.” A sample rider can be seen here.
The landlord is also required to insert a rider that informs you of your rights and obligations under rent stabilization law. In addition, landlords have the right, under the Housing and Maintenance code, to ask for the names of family members and roommates occupying the apartment.
Beyond that, though, you should be skeptical of additional riders inserted into your lease.
“A rider about pets or appliances that restricts the tenancy in ways that it wasn’t restricted in the original lease is improper,” Himmelstein says.
Other riders that may seem innocuous, he adds, like new clauses stating you have to report mold or leaks, are also not allowed by law.
“In order to figure out if your renewal lease really has the same terms and conditions as the original, you have to go through it carefully,” Himmelstein says.
If you find that your landlord has included riders that aren’t legitimate, you can refuse to sign the lease until they issue you a new renewal lease without them. Send back the unsigned lease with a letter requesting this, and make sure to keep a copies of all the documents for yourself. Or, you can simply sign the renewal form and the legal riders and return the illegal riders unsigned.
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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, Donoghue & 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.