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My NYC landlord didn’t issue a new lease when we renewed. Should I be worried?

You can typically expect a brand new lease when you renew, but initialing changes to it can also suffice.

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Question:

My landlord offered to renew our lease for another year, which is great, but when I asked for the new lease, she said to just cross out the date on our old lease, put in the new one, and initial it. This doesn't seem right, and I'm worried we're not protected by our lease agreement. Is this normal in NYC?

Answer:

Not receiving a brand new agreement when you’re renewing the lease on your NYC apartment is certainly not the norm, but since it’s in writing as required by law, you do have a binding, legal lease, says Sam Himmelstein, an attorney (and Brick Underground sponsor) who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.

Under common law, the essentials of a NYC apartment lease must:

• Identify the address that is being rented

• Lay out the start and end date of the lease

• Include the amount of the monthly rent

• Be signed by and delivered to both you and your landlord 

“Sounds to me like your lease did all of those things,” Himmelstein says. “But this is very rare. Most landlords when they renew a lease will issue a totally new, full lease with all that information.” 


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Since your expired NYC lease has been signed and dated by both you and your landlord, you should have no repercussions should your landlord tried to bring you into court to say you don’t have a current lease. 

“If you presented your current lease, I’m almost certain you’d win,” Himmelstein says. “The courts have been pretty liberal to what constitutes ‘in writing.’”

In fact, in today’s digital world, an email exchange can even be considered a valid, binding lease if all of the above info is laid out, and you and your landlord show proof that you both intended certain documentation be your signatures, such as using the common /s/ before your names, he says. 

Need further proof? Under New York state’s Electronic Signatures and Records Act, “there is now no doubt that electronic records have the same legal force as those produced in other formats such as paper and microfilm.” 

With that in mind, maybe it's time to speak to your landlord about the possibility of going digital the next time around just so you have even more peace of mind.