What You Should Know Before Signing an Apartment Lease

Written by Carlyle Property Management on 05.30.19

Signing a lease to rent an apartment/house

Ready to rent? 

A big part of "ready" is anticipating all your upfront costs. You’ll be asked for the first month’s rent (or, in some cases, the first and last). You’ll need to put down a security deposit, and fees for a broker, if you use one.

As a rule, when you’re ready to find your place, you should have three times the amount of the monthly rent, so you can comfortably put down your deposits. In New York, if using a broker, you’ll need close to five times the amount of the monthly rent at the lease-signing stage.

When you find the right apartment, you will get a lease to sign. Unless both sides agree otherwise, the terms are set in stone for the duration of the lease.

No one is bound by the terms before actually signing the lease. Any modifications agreed on at the outset need to be marked with both parties’ initials.

New York City Rental Properties: Notable Notes

New York City is all about apartment living. It has one of the most competitive apartment rental markets in the country, if not the world. Rent control and rent stabilization exist in certain long-established NYC residential buildings, but most rentals are deemed “unregulated” and a landlord can charge any amount a renter will agree to pay. 

As you probably know, the amount can get steep. Many people compete for NYC rentals the moment they’re available or even before they’re listed.   

So, most people who move into the city need to find insiders to hook them up with a building manager and a lease. Who might these insiders be?

The New York City Broker

New York State licenses apartment brokers. Licensed brokers may charge you, the renter, for these matchmaking services. They usually cost the equivalent of a month’s rent, or anywhere from 8% to 15% of the initial annual rent total. 

Yes, brokers may add reasonable costs of checking your credit history to your fees. 

  • Tip 1: With your stellar history as a conscientious resident, you absolutely should bargain for the lowest possible fee.  
  • Tip 2: Yes, you should wait until you see an actual lease extended to you, duly signed by the landlord, before paying the broker.

Fee-free apartment rentals do exist! But many people come into New York not knowing exactly where to start, and brokers know the territory.

An Apartment Listing Service

Listing services that put clients in touch with available New York City apartments must also be state-licensed. Charges may not exceed a month’s worth of rent.

Services have to deposit the client’s money in an escrow account. They will be refunded to you, less $15.00, if the lease does not pan out.

Terms That Won’t Hold Up in a New York City Lease

Check your lease for inappropriate clauses. NYC leases may not:

  • Remove the landlord’s liability for negligence causing harm to people or property.
  • Remove the resident’s right to a trial by jury should a legal action arise.

See General Obligations Law § 5-321.

Also note that New York City landlords may not discriminate against a potential resident based on aspects such as race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age, marital or family status, lawful sources of income, sexual orientation, or immigration status.

Keeping Track of Your Security Deposit

Your deposit is a lot of money, and it's your money. It can’t go into any lessor’s personal account.

If you’re renting a building with at least six apartment homes, it goes into an interest-bearing bank account.

The property is allowed to take yearly administrative costs of 1% of the deposit, but the rest of the interest earned is yours. The rental property should offer you the option of receiving it annually, at the end of the term, or applied to your rent.  

For rules on deposits and much more, consider the New York rental laws your guide. These are all the rules and regulations that come with renting your space.

Read More: Your Rights as NYC Renter

A Few Things to Know About Renting in Philly

Pennsylvania, too, bans discrimination in rental housing. Additionally, under Pennsylvania law:

  • Landlords tell you where your security deposit is. The cap on security deposits equals two months’ rent (and it can only amount to one month’s rent after the first year).
  • There’s a ten-day grace period to pay overdue rent.

To safeguard your security deposit, walk through the place and take notes and pictures about any and every scratch, tear, and dent before you move in. When you complete a list of imperfections and repair issues, show it to the landlord who should confirm your list.

Keep the list and confirmation in your file of valuable documents and back it up.

Renter, Know Thy Lease

To understand what’s expect of each side, and how much all those expectations will cost, review your lease. Ask yourself:

  • Is it a year or two-year agreement?
  • Does the lease contain an automatic renewal clause? Be sure you know the notice terms if you’d prefer not to renew.
  • When can you move in?
  • How should rent be paid and what is the late payment policy?
  • What repairs are covered and how do you call for service?
  • What decorating will you want to do and will it be allowed?
  • Who does snow removal?
  • Is renter’s insurance required? (Tip: Get it.)

No lease covers every possibility. But you can gather a lot by what it does cover. Plus, it’s perfectly fine to ask questions now, to avert mistakes or misunderstandings later.

We Love Lease Questions

We are delighted to offer elegant rental space at prime locations in New York City, including the Upper East Side, Midtown East, and Murray Hill. Or check out our luxury apartment homes in Philly’s most desirable neighborhoods

Contact Carlyle Property Management to learn more about our broker-free leases for New York, and Philadelphia's finest apartment homes. We have several openings in both great cities. We'd be delighted to show you what's available now, and answer any questions you might have.

Topics: Philadelphia rentals, New York City Apartments for Rent, Leasing an Apartment

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