The Covid-19 outbreak has made moving to a new apartment extremely complicated and Aiden Kent knows this very well. The writer and her partner David were planning to move to New York City from Chicago on June 1st when their current lease expires, but the pandemic has thrown a wrench in their plans.
And so she is resorting to Plan B: Making a case to her landlord to extend her lease, and in a detailed essay on Medium, she describes her thought process and provides talking points that any renter in a similar situation could use. (Was she successful? Check back for an update.)
Here's her advice to other renters who want to extend their lease.
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Talking to your partner or roommate about your options is the first step, Kent says. The pandemic is a time of fear and uncertainty for everyone, especially if you now have to uproot and start over. You and your partner/roommate(s) should come up with a plan A, B, C, and D to ensure you have back-up plans that are ideal for everyone. If you live alone, "write out how your plans have been affected and note your plans A, B and C," Kent says.
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Knowing your rights is even more essential right now. Your landlord cannot evict you right now for nonpayment of rent. In New York state, there is a 90-day moratorium on evictions and housing courts are closed. (If you need help dealing with your landlord, check out the city's tenants' rights resources here.) Kent also suggests if you are experiencing a financial hardship, now is the time to ask family members for help if they are able.
Having a clear plan written out will also help you navigate the process. For Kent and her partner, their goal was to extend their lease month to month so that they can move without penalty when the pandemic ends—along with avoiding a rent increase. Your written plan should include your non-negotiables, nice-to-haves, and back-up plans. Keep a written copy of all the contact you've had with your landlord or management company to avoid any communication breakdowns.
Do you need help negotiating your lease, renegotiating it at a rent you can afford, or terminating your lease early? The experienced tenants-rights attorneys at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph can advocate on your behalf. Call 212-349-3000 or email to schedule a consultation.
Before you approach your landlord, you should prepare a script. This should include a list of ways you have been a good tenant, for example, you always paid rent on time and in-full and you've been a quiet and respectful neighbor. Have your script on hand when you meet with your landlord, and Kent suggests including this phrase: “I’d love to discuss options and find something we’re both happy with." And remind your landlord what's in it for them: "Landlords do not want to spend the money, time and energy looking for new tenants. Your request will help save them the hassle, at least for a few months or however long you need," Kent says.
Once you reach an agreement, "make sure there is a way for you to get a paper copy of your agreement." Use this line: “I’d also like us to execute an amendment memorializing the extension and confirming there will not be holdover penalties," to ensure your agreement is legal, Kent says.
To read Aiden Kent's advice in full, including a template for a letter to your landlord, go here.
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