Ask an Expert

I just found out my new 'landlord' doesn't actually own my apartment. What should I do?

By Alanna Schubach  | October 26, 2020 - 1:00PM

Building owners often hire management companies to function as landlords. 

Austin Havens-Bowen for Brick Underground / Flickr

I just learned that my new landlord isn't the owner of my rental apartment. Should I be concerned? How does it affect my rights as a tenant?

This is most likely nothing to worry about, and not an unusual arrangement, our experts say.

"Ownership means your name is on the property's deed. If you buy a building and become the owner, or an LLC that you control owns the title, you can hire a management company to run the building," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and FYI, a Brick sponsor). "The management company can function as the landlord." 

That means the person or company that you pay rent to and contact when you have a problem is a separate entity from the owner of the building. 

There's also an arrangement known as a net lease, in which an owner rents out the entire property to another entity, and they run the building, collect rent, and pay expenses like property taxes and insurance. Similarly, that entity will be considered the landlord. 

"Assuming it’s a property manager acting on the landlord’s behalf, they’re subject to the same state and federal laws, so no problem unless there is a decline in services or performance," says Gordon Roberts, a broker at Sotheby's International Realty

If there has been a recent change in management, he adds, there should have been an announcement of the change to your building. You can also find out who owns your building by searching on ACRIS, the city's database of property records, and who your building's management company is on the HPD website, if you're concerned about potential fraud, like title theft or identity theft. (You can also check out Brick Underground's guide to finding out who is the owner of a building when it is shielded by an LLC.)

This information could come in handy if you're planning to go to housing court for an issue like rent overcharges. 

"If you're going to sue, you probably want to name the building's owner and the management company," Himmelstein says. But generally, he adds, "It's good to know who the owner is, but it's not necessarily something nefarious if the owner and the landlord aren't the same person." 

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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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