The rental market is tough everywhere, but it doesn’t get tougher than New York City. If you’re going to make it as a renter here, you’ve got to adopt some smart legal habits to protect yourself.

Here are five habits that real estate lawyers like me recommend to New York tenants. 

#1) Reading the Lease

You must read your lease. First, you need to make sure there are no illegal or unenforceable clauses in there. 

Second, you need to know what kinds of activities could get you slapped with a lease violation, a fine, or an eviction notice. This allows you to avoid those activities and ensures you don’t get blindsided.

Leases are definitely becoming longer and more involved in some apartment complexes, and the task is certainly daunting. Nevertheless, it’s worth it to ensure you don’t run into any avoidable trouble.

#2) Taking Photos

Take photos when you move in. Take photos when you move out. Take photos when something breaks and take it after the repairs. 

These photos will be vital if you need to prove that certain damages were not your fault or to challenge a landlord who claims damage exists when it doesn’t. Landlords want to keep your deposit whenever they can, and they’re going to use every excuse they can to keep it. 

Don’t give them any ammunition.

#3) Documenting Incidents

Did you call for a repair only to wait months to see a repairman? Write it down. Did you end up buying a new appliance and putting it in your apartment? Write down why you bought it, and keep the receipt.

Did your landlord say or do something illegal, inappropriate, or discriminatory? Keep it in your rental journal. This written record can become a vital piece of evidence in any future court case. 

#4) Keeping Receipts 

I touched on this above, but I just want to reiterate that if you spend money improving or repairing your apartment, you need to keep copies of the receipts. This is especially true if you had to repair your apartment because the landlord would not do so.

You want to have proof later if the landlord tries to act like you spent less than you did or denies that you paid for the repair at all. 

#5) Reading Landlord-Tenant News 

It’s very important to stay on top of landlord-tenant law. You need to know your rights, and your rights sometimes change as New York state law changes. Landlord-tenant issues are a routine battle among lawmakers, and you need to know what’s going on.

Reading the news can be a drag, but you need to read this news. Often, leveraging the law is one of the only powers that a tenant has against a wealthy landlord. For example, a recent law allows tenants to report chronically vacant units to combat the practice of “warehousing,” in which landlords keep apartments vacant in anticipation of future rent increases.

The Real Deal covers nationwide real estate news and has an entire section dedicated to New York. The Gothamist is a non-profit newspaper covering New York City news and often covers real estate issues. The City covers real estate issues, too.

Get Help When You Need It

Never be afraid to call a real estate lawyer if you need help. The worst you’ll be told is that you don’t have a case. At best, you will have a case, and you’ll get the help you deserve.

Got a problem with your landlord? Contact McAdams Law today.

See also:

Can a New York Landlord Evict You for Moral Reasons?

What to Do If Your Landlord Won’t Make Repairs

How to Form a Tenant Organization in NYC

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