Roommates + Landlords

What you can do if your lease is up and you can’t afford to renew

By Austin Havens-Bowen | January 27, 2022 - 9:30AM 

It might be time to downsize or see if you qualify for a rental assistance program. 

iStock 

It’s tough being a renter in New York City these days. Rents for new leases are now higher than before the pandemic. For current tenants, many landlords are increasing rents at renewal time, and the state’s eviction ban expired, which means if you are behind on your rent, owners can start eviction proceedings.

All of that can be a tough pill to swallow, especially if your lease is up and you’re faced with a substantial rent increase that you can’t afford. It can be even harder if you weren't planning on moving—which means additional expenses.

However, depending on your situation, you have options. For example, if you have a good history with your landlord, you can try to negotiate a rent increase lower in order to stay put. Or it might be time to downsize, or see if you qualify for a rental assistance program. 

To help make the best decision, here are six options to consider if your lease is up and you're facing a rent increase that you can't afford.

1) Stay put and go month to month 

If you don't sign a new lease, and your landlord continues to accept your rent check each month, you are automatically considered a month-to-month tenant.

This is a good option if you want the flexibility to leave at any time—you only need to give 30-days notice. And your landlord is required to give you a 30- to 90-day notice, depending on how long you have been there, if they want you to leave. And while the terms of the old lease apply, a landlord can still raise your rent. For more information, check out "5 things you should know about renting month to month in NYC." 

2) Move in order to downsize or change neighborhoods

If you decide to rent something cheaper you can downsize or move to a more affordable neighborhood (or both). Studios are also a good option if you’ve lost your roommate and can’t afford to move to a one bedroom. Not all studios are alike, so check out "Considering a NYC studio apartment? Here's how to maximize your layout."   

Adjina Dekidjiev, a broker at Coldwell Banker Warburg, says being flexible about where you live and considering more affordable areas in Brooklyn or Queens is key. Check out "Looking for a cheap apartment? Here are NYC’s most affordable neighborhoods for renters." 

To save cash during your move, look for no-fee apartments. Landlords will pay the broker fee in a slow market—or if they have an apartment that's tough to rent for some reason. Read "How to find a low- or no-fee apartment in NYC: Brick Underground's best advice."  

Pro Tip:

Looking for a more affordable rental? Or maybe a landlord who is flexible about guarantors, pets, or "flexing" a space with temporary walls?  Put your search into the capable hands of Triplemint, a tech-savvy real estate brokerage founded by a pair of Yale grads in response to the frustrating apartment-search experiences of classmates and colleagues. Triplemint will charge a broker's fee of 10 percent of a year's rent on open listings instead of the usual 12 to 15 percent if you sign up here. Bonus: The agents at Triplemint are a delight to deal with.

3) Take over someone else’s lease

Another option is to take over someone else’s lease—on sites like Leasebreak you can find listings from renters who need to get out of their lease early. It’s a more flexible option and cheaper too. You'll skip the broker fee and likely get a lower rent than what you’ll find on the market now, says Phil Horigan, founder of Leasebreak. He estimates the site’s traffic is up 20 percent from last year.

To learn more check out "Brick Underground’s best advice on subletting a New York City apartment" and "How to rent a short-term, furnished apartment in NYC without getting scammed." 

4) Find a roommate 

Finding a roommate is a time-tested way to make living here more affordable. Living with someone else allows you to split the rent, utilities, and other expenses—in a very pricey city.

You have a right to a roommate in New York City—you just need to notify your landlord and provide their name. Be aware there are rules about what constitutes a legal bedroom. Don't have the space? You'll need to find a roommate—and a large space together. For more roommate tips check out "The 21 best questions to ask potential roommates to get the perfect match,"  "Here are the best ways to find a roommate in NYC" and "The 11 best sites for finding a roommate in NYC."

5) Apply for rent relief 

Depending on your financial situation, you might qualify for rental assistance to avoid eviction. New York’s rental assistance portal reopened on January 11th. According to the site, some assistance won’t be available until federal funds are provided. But more funding is expected in March, according to City Limits. You also must meet certain income requirements. For more, read "Applying for pandemic rent relief can prevent eviction."

6) Check out rental assistance programs

The city and state offer different programs for New Yorkers struggling to pay rent. Some options like the city’s One Shot Deal offer one-time assistance while programs like the City Family Homelessness & Eviction Prevention Supplement are long-term solutions if you qualify. To find out if you qualify and how to apply, "Struggling to pay rent or facing eviction? Here are 6 programs that might help."

 

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