I was approved for an apartment, but when I received the lease, the rent was lower than what I was told it would be! Both the owner and I signed the lease, but then the landlord caught the mistake and now wants me to sign a new lease for the higher rent. Any advice?
That's certainly an unusual experience, but it is a good reminder that when you sign a lease for a New York City apartment, be sure to read it carefully to avoid mistakes like this, which is what you can assume this is. In your case, if you already agreed to a higher rent, you should expect to pay that higher amount each month, despite what your lease says.
Acknowledging the mistake first is a good way to start out your new relationship. Even if your landlord didn't notice, you should document the error and bring it to your landlord’s attention, says Steven Kikrpatrick, a partner at the law firm Romer Debbas. Honest mistakes do happen, he says.
For minor typos like an incorrect apartment number or a misspelled name, a new lease might not be required. It could just be interpreted as the correct information that was intended, Kirkpatrick says. But for a larger issue like an incorrect rent amount, getting a new lease or a provision with the correct amount is important so you can avoid—worst-case scenario—getting dragged into court.
However, if there’s some confusion about the original rent amount, there could be an argument that “there was no meeting of the minds,” Kirkpatrick says. In that situation, your landlord should accept the rent stated in the lease. And in an extreme case, like if your apartment is $4,000 a month and the lease says $40,000, it would be obvious that this was a mistake.
Arik Lifshitz, CEO of DSA Property Group, says that mistakes happen from time to time, and can be easy to correct. There should be good faith from both sides to make the corrections mutually agreed on and abide by them, he says.
You should also consider your landlord’s side of the argument if it was an honest mistake. “Consider their response if the situation was reversed,” Liftshitz says.
What if you cannot agree on which amount is correct? You could end up in litigation. A judge might decide which rent you pay and the court would deem the lease as amended to reflect the correct information, Kirkpatrick says.
So it's important to be clear on what rent you are going to be paying and know that your landlord can’t decide to raise your rent after you’ve both signed the lease. Once a lease is signed and a fully-executed copy is delivered to you, it’s binding for both of you. According to the Attorney General’s Residential Tenants’ Rights Guide, a lease “cannot be changed while it is in effect unless both parties agree.”
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