Renewing your lease in an unregulated (market-rate) apartment
Renewing your lease in an unregulated (market-rate) apartment
If your apartment is unregulated (sometimes referred to as a market-rate apartment) you do not have a right by law to renew your lease. Your lease may contain a renewal clause that gives you such rights, but if it does not, you must negotiate with your landlord.
Note: This information pertains only to tenants whose apartments are unregulated. A different set of rules apply if your apartment is rent regulated, government subsidized, or in an affordable housing program. Read more:
The information contained on this web page does not constitute legal advice and must not be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer qualified to give advice on legal issues pertaining to housing. For more, visit our page on Finding a lawyer.
This information pertains only to tenants living in New York City.
Many of your rights depend on the type of housing you live in or your type of tenancy. You may be subject to different laws and have different sets of rights than even neighbors in your own building. Learn which rights and responsibilities apply to you.
- My landlord refused to offer me a renewal lease (or the offer made to me was unreasonable or unaffordable) and gave me notice to leave. What will happen if I'm unable to move out by that date?
- I believe that my landlord is refusing to renew my lease based on illegal discrimination. What can I do?
- I believe that my landlord is refusing to renew my lease in retaliation against me because I complained about services or repairs, or otherwise asserted my rights as a tenant under the law. What can I do?
- How long do I have to decide whether to accept a landlord's offer for a new or renewal lease in a market-rate apartment?
Your landlord is not required to offer you a renewal lease if you live in an unregulated / market-rate apartment. You may only renew your lease if your landlord agrees to do so.
If you want to remain, you can approach your landlord well before the expiration of your lease and ask to sign a new lease.
Your landlord may:
- offer you a renewal lease under the same terms, conditions, and rent levels;
- offer you a renewal lease, but change any of the terms and conditions, and/or the amount of rent;
- refuse to offer you a renewal lease, but permit you to continue living in the apartment without a lease as a month-to-month tenant; or
- refuse to offer you a renew lease, and ask you to leave the apartment
In market-rate / unregulated apartments, landlords do not need to have a reason to refuse to offer a renewal lease to an existing tenant. Your landlord does not need to justify changes to the terms and conditions of a new lease, or reasons for raising the rent. This applies no matter your standing as a tenant, nor the length of time that you have lived there. (Issues of discrimination, and retaliation against tenants who complain about the lack of repairs or poor services, are addressed below in this information sheet.)
If you live in a market-rate / unregulated apartment, it's important to clarify with your landlord happens when your lease ends. If you have not signed a new lease by the time your current lease expires, your landlord may expect you to leave - and may begin eviction proceedings at any point after the lease expires - if you have not moved out and returned possession of the apartment to your landlord (including by returning your keys). However, your landlord may be willing let you sign a new lease, or remain without any lease as a month-to-month tenant.
Tenants with leases have many more protections than those who don't. However, tenants sometimes enter month-to-month arrangements when their landlord is unwilling to sign a new lease - or because the tenant prefers the flexibility of being able to move out on one month's notice.
If your lease ends and you try to keep paying the rent but your landlord refuses to accept the rent, you are NOT in a month-to-month tenancy. Your landlord may be preparing to start a court case to have you evicted.
If your lease ends and your landlord continues to accept your rent, you have entered into a month-to-month tenancy arrangement. As a month-to-month tenant, every month that your landlord collects rent from you, he/she is accepting you as a tenant in that apartment for another month. However, your landlord may end the tenancy by giving you 30 days written notice. (The 30 days must cover a full month. If the notice is served in the middle of a month, it becomes effective at the end of the next full month.) As a tenant you can also end a month-to-month tenancy by telling your landlord in writing that you intend to move out in 30 days. You must continue paying rent for the remainder of time that you live in the apartment. Your notice can cover any 30 day period.
My landlord refused to offer me a renewal lease (or the offer made to me was unreasonable or unaffordable) and gave me notice to leave. What will happen if I'm unable to move out by that date?
If your landlord does not renew your lease and you remain in the apartment, be prepared for your landlord to start an eviction case in housing court agasint you. The case will likely be a holdover case, meaning that your landlord is asking for the right to evict you even if you're willing to pay the rent. For more, read our information sheet about holdover evictions.
To legally evict you, your landlord must take you to court, win a case against you and get judgment and a warrant before hiring a marshal to do the evictions. You have the right to defend yourself in the court case. It is illegal for your landlord, or someone hired by your landlord (other than a marshal) to remove you or your possessions, prevent you from entering your apartment, or discontinue essential services such as water, heat, or electricity. For more about this, read our information sheet on illegal evictions.
Once you are in housing court, you may be able to get additional time to find a new home before the court allows the marshal to perform the actual eviction. You could negotiate the terms of a move-out with your landlord in court and get that agreement signed, or you could explain to the judge that you need more time to find a new place to live. It is common for judges to give a month - or even a few months - for tenants to find a new apartment. If you don't move out by that date, you may be able to request additional time from the judge. Usually tenans are ordered to continue paying the rent while they look for a new home, and in some cases judges may look favorably on long term tenants in good standing by granting additional time. However, the amount of time that judge can give you is limited. Six months is the maximum amount of time allowed by law, and in many cases judges will be unwilling to give that amount of time. If you are in a holdover case in an unregulated apartment, eventually you will have to move out or you will be evicted by a city marshal.
I believe that my landlord is refusing to renew my lease based on illegal discrimination. What can I do?
Contact the New York City Human Rights Commission regarding issues of illegal housing discrimination. You can reach the Human Rights Commission by calling 311 from a phone in New York City, or by calling 212-639-9675 from a phone outside of New York City.
I believe that my landlord is refusing to renew my lease in retaliation against me because I complained about services or repairs, or otherwise asserted my rights as a tenant under the law. What can I do?
Retaliation can be raised a defense in holdover eviction cases, but it can be difficult to prove. (Read our information sheet about holdover evictions.) Even if you are successful, the most that a housing court judge can award is the right to one renewal lease, but you cannot be awarded long-term rights to the apartment. Before pursuing this defense, you are strongly advised to discuss the situation with a lawyer.
How long do I have to decide whether to accept a landlord's offer for a new or renewal lease in a market-rate apartment?
Unlike in the case of rent stabilized lease renewals where the law specifies how many days a tenant must be given to decide whether or not to accept or refuse a renewal lease offer, there is no set time frame for market-rate / unregulated tenants to respond. The first thing to do is check the offer and/or the renewal lease itself to see if they specifiy how long the offer is good for.
If neither the offer nor the lease agreement specify the duration of the offer, then principles of contract law govern.
"An offer that is not irrevocable does not stay open indefinitely. Although an offer does not specify the time by which acceptance must be made, the offer is deemed to be open and available to be accepted for a reasonable time unless sooner revoked. If such reasonable time has passed, the offer is deemed to have lapsed and cannot be accepted." (New York Practice Series - New York Contract Law § 2:8).
The definition of 'reasonable' is not further defined in the law - only by precedent.
Check the language of the lease and/or the offer. If there is language in the lease or the offer that indicates that it is irrevocable, the landlord cannot change his or her mind. Once the lease is signed by both parties, it becomes a binding agreement.
However, if your landlord has offered you a lease but has not signed it yet, and the lease or offer does not contain language saying that it is irrevocable, your landlord has the right to revoke the offer.
In a market-rate apartment, if your lease contains an automatic renewal clause, your landlord must give you advance notice of the existence of this clause between 15 and 30 days before the date at which you are required to inform the landlord that you do not intend not to renew. (General Obligations Law §5-905)
If your lease does not contain an automatic renewal clause, your landlord is not allowed to renew your lease for another term without your permission. If you stay past the end of your lease and your landlord continues to accept rent from you, this does not mean that your lease has been renewed. It means that you have entered into a month-to-month tenancy arrangement (a type of tenancy that can be ended by either the tenant or the landlord upon 30 days notice.)