A lease that starts in the middle of the month is usually the result of a compromise: If you're hunting for apartments in New York City in the middle or near the end of the month, there's a chance you may see a place that's available on the first of the next month. If you can't move that quickly, a landlord might agree to start the lease on the 15th of the month.
Landlords don't want apartments sitting empty longer than a few weeks, so in a competitive market, you risk losing out on the apartment in this scenario if you don't agree to start your lease on the middle of the month. Another reason for a mid-month move-in day might be because the landlord needs a week or two to fix up the place after the previous tenant moves out.
There are some advantages to moving in the middle of the month—for one, movers are less busy—but some complications as well. Here's what to know about a mid-month move.
Leaving before the end of the lease
What about the apartment you are moving out of and the remaining weeks on your lease there? Do you have to pay if you are leaving early? A reader put it to us this way: "I want to move out on the fourth but I’m being billed to the end of the month on a rental—do I need a lawyer to advocate for me?"
The bottom line is this: When you signed a lease you essentially signed a contract and agreed to pay rent for 12 months, or a different term. If you want to leave a few weeks before the end of your lease term, you'll still have to pay for the entire month, says Catherine Grad, a tenant attorney with her own practice.
Breaking a lease, even by a few weeks, isn't easy. Assuming the lease does not say otherwise and the landlord never agreed to pro-rate the rent, a tenant who moves out early in the month is liable for the full month’s rent, Grad says.
If you're a month-to-month tenant and you approach your landlord about your move several weeks in advance, you may find you get more flexibility.
Flexibility may give you an advantage
However, there is another way to think about this, says Nick Flatto, an agent with Corcoran.
Landlords are getting multiple applications for every listing right now, Flatto says. If you're able to move into a new apartment mid month, even if you have to pay the extra weeks of rent in your old place, it might give you the edge over other applicants. "The biggest frustration for tenants right now is not getting the apartment of their dreams," he says. If you can move quickly, you can beat out the competition.
Another advantage of moving in the middle of the month—even if you have to pay the rent on your old place until the end of the month—is that it can take the stress out of moving day. Not only is there less competition for moving companies, "instead of a one day move-in move-out which can be very strenuous, this could give you a few weeks to gradually transfer your things over, and an opportunity to create the new space in the way you'd like," Flatto says.
Negotiating an extension
What happens if you need a few extra days between the end of your old lease and the start of your new one? You can't count on your landlord letting you stay if you have said you're moving out. Arik Lifshitz, CEO of DSA Property Group says sometimes its simply not possible to extend a stay by even a few days. Landlords want to quickly turn the apartment around for the next tenant. They may have repairs scheduled or painters coming in. New tenants will be moving in.
However he says, sometimes the landlord may grant you an exception. This is where it pays to have built a good relationship with your landlord but it often comes down to case by case scenarios. Just because your neighbor was able to stay on and pro-rate the rent for a few days or a week doesn't mean you will be able to do the same. His advice is to ask the landlord and ask as early as you can. "A request received a month in advance will be received better than a request received two days in advance," he says.
Better yet, don't put yourself in that position. "If you’re asking for more time beyond your lease expiration date, then you are at your landlord’s mercy," he says, and you may be out of luck. You make yourself vulnerable to having the additional cost of putting your things in storage and paying for a short-term rental until you can make a more permanent move. Another option is to negotiate with the landlord in your next place to see if you can move in early. This is where a broker might be able to help.
A lawyer won't necessarily be able to advocate for you either. In fact, Grad says, getting expensive legal help in this type of situation is a gamble.
"While you don’t know what a lawyer can achieve in this type of negotiation, you do know that the lawyer will bill for the time. So, the tenant could end up spending yet more money and still have to pay one month’s rent," she says.
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