Realty Bites

I didn't get a copy of my lease when I signed it. What should I do?

By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
September 21, 2021 - 9:30AM

It's not uncommon to have to wait for your new landlord to return a signed copy of your lease, but make sure you get it before you move in.


I didn’t get a copy of my lease when I signed it and I’m moving in soon. What should I do?

When you sign a lease for an apartment in New York City, it’s important to have your own copy of the agreement, but you might not receive it immediately. Here’s what you need to know.

You may not get your lease right away because your landlord wasn’t present when you signed it. This is fairly common, especially if the landlord hired a broker to represent them, says Bill Kowalczuk, a broker at Warburg Realty. They have to sign both copies and get one of them to you.

You should receive your copy within a few business days, although sometimes it can take a few weeks, Kowalczuk says. If you haven’t received it within that time frame, you should keep asking for your copy, he says.

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Even if your lease is not fully executed, meaning it lacks the landlord's signature, you should ask for an unsigned copy, says Becki Danchik, a broker at Warburg Realty. Although it’s not the official lease, it’s important because it confirms that you signed and paid a deposit for the apartment. 

You can also take photos of the lease or ask the broker to send you a confirmation email so that you have written proof that you signed the agreement. 

So are you still protected if you move in? For your lease to be legally binding, it has to be signed by the landlord and delivered to you, says Steven Kirkpatrick, a partner at law firm Romer Debbas. However, Kirkpatrick says this scenario doesn’t usually become an issue in court.

You should also know that even if your landlord hasn’t signed the lease, they cannot change any terms of the lease after you have signed it, Kirkpatrick says. 

Here’s a tip: Initial the bottom of each page of the lease, Kirkpatrick says. That way you can easily spot a page that was swapped out or changed. Many brokers and landlords will ask you to do this anyway.

And if your move-in date approaches and you still don’t have a copy, you should request one when you pick up your keys. If you still don’t receive it, you could argue that the landlord didn’t satisfy the delivery requirements and decide not to move into the apartment, but it probably won’t get that far.



Austin Havens-Bowen

Staff Writer

Staff writer Austin Havens-Bowen covers the rental market and answers renters' questions in a column called Realty Bites. He previously reported on local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

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