The pandemic gives NYC renters a new imperative to renew their leases

By Jennifer White Karp  |
April 9, 2020 - 9:20AM

Manhattan saw the second-largest annual decline in new leases in more than 11 years of tracking this metric.


In prior months New York City renters, faced with increasingly pricey apartments, have opted more and more to renew their leases rather than move. Then the pandemic hit NYC in mid-March, followed by the state’s shutdown of non-essential businesses plus a stay-at-home order, which effectively gave renters a new and more pressing reason to stay in their current apartments.

As a result of the pandemic, the number of new leases dropped dramatically for the month, according to Douglas Elliman’s March rental market report for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, indicating that more renters are staying put. (While lease renewals are not tracked, they can be inferred by a drop in new leases.)

In effect, you have “two parties that are stuck with each other,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel and author of the report. “You have tenants, who are unlikely to want to go around and look at apartments now, and landlords, who want to keep their tenants.”

By nearly all measures, rents increased in March, but this is a reflection of trends leading up to the outbreak. In the coming months, rents are not likely to continue climbing, but don’t expect a dramatic shift, Miller says. “It’s not an opportunity to save money,” he says.

Manhattan saw the 11th consecutive, year-over-year decline in new leases in 12 months. The number of new leases dropped 37.7 percent. This was the second-largest annual decline in new leases in more than 11 years of tracking this metric, the report says.

The median rent increased 5.7 percent to $3,477, and the median rent for one bedrooms rose to its highest level on record, $3,650.

For Brooklyn, the lowest total number of new leases was signed in four and a half years. The number of new leases fell 45.7 percent.

The median rent in Brooklyn reached $3,000, an increase of 3.4 percent, and the median rent for new development ($3,710), and for one bedrooms ($2,995) reached record highs.

In northwest Queens, the number of new leases fell the most out of eight consecutive months of declines, dropping 20.4 percent. Median rent rose 2.9 percent to $2,881, and new development median rent hit a new record at $3,639.

Other market reports

MNS released reports for rental markets in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. The reports drill down to compare doorman vs. non-doorman buildings and look at neighborhood trends by apartment size. Year-over-year, rents are up across all apartment sizes.



Jennifer White Karp

Managing Editor

Jennifer steers Brick Underground’s editorial coverage of New York City residential real estate and writes articles on market trends and strategies for buyers, sellers, and renters. Jennifer’s 15-year career in New York City real estate journalism includes stints as a writer and editor at The Real Deal and its spinoff publication, Luxury Listings NYC.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.