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Do Landlords and Tenants Have to Have a Written Lease Agreement in New York?

If you are planning to rent a property in New York, or are already a renter, you should have a lease agreement with your landlord. One questions that tenants often have is " Do landlords and tenants have to have a written lease agreement in New York? " In most cases a written lease agreement is not required; however, there are a variety of reasons why you should reduce your lease agreement to written instead of depending on an oral agreement.

If you are planning to rent in New York City or the surrounding boroughs, you likely already know that affordable housing does not come cheap nor is it easy to find. If the property in question is not rent stabilized and is not being rented through a government subsidized program such as Section 8, the lease agreement is not required to be in writing. An oral lease is enforceable under most circumstances; however, enforcing it may be difficult.

A lease agreement, at its most basic, should set forth the terms of the agreement, including:

  • Duration of the lease
  • Start date and end date
  • Total rent to be paid and when each payment is to be made
  • Responsibility for utilities, repairs, and maintenance
  • Deposit amount
  • Reasons a tenant can be considered in default

A lease agreement may include more than this but should not contain less. Most leases also provide terms under which the lease may be extended or renewed. If the property is rent controlled or leased under Section 8 additional rules apply with regard to what must be included in the lease.

A landlord and tenant may enter into an oral lease that includes all of these provisions; however, if a dispute arises it may be difficult for either party to prove what the agreed upon terms of the lease were. Often, it comes down to a "He said", "She said" situation without any concrete evidence upon which a court can resolve the dispute. For example, imagine that you wish to have a dog in your home. You contend that your landlord told you when you leased the apartment that pets are allowed. Your landlord claims pets are not allowed. If you have an oral lease agreement with your landlord there is now real way to prove what the original agreement with regard to pets was.

Because of the difficulty faced in enforcing an oral lease agreement, it is always best to enter into w written lease agreement. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, it is in your best interests to work with the landlord-tenant attorneys at attorneys at SIMON & GILMAN, LLP  to draft a written lease agreement before agreeing to rent a property.

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