Realty Bites

I found an apartment but I can't move right away. What should I do?

By Austin Havens-Bowen | January 26, 2021 - 9:30AM 

NYC landlords are showing more flexibility on move-in dates in the current market.

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Question:

I saw an apartment that I really like and it’s available immediately but I can’t move in until my current lease expires next month. What should I do?

Answer:

Lining up your move-in date with a move-out date can be tricky, especially if your lease requires that you give more than a month's notice, which is why NYC renters tend to look for apartments very close to the end of their lease (and why it is a good idea to push back on signing a lease that requires more than 30-days notice).

But in the current rental market, you have more negotiating power with a prospective landlord. That’s because with so many empty apartments in New York City now, some landlords are being more flexible and are willing to give you extra time to move in, whether it’s next week or in a month, in order to fill the apartment.


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Some landlords are willing to hold an apartment for qualified tenants as long as a month. For example, Arik Liftshitz, CEO of DSA Property Group, a property management and development firm, says if a renter couldn't move in immediately, they could apply for the apartment and start the lease when they move in.

In this situation, your first month’s rent and security deposit would be due at the lease signing, but the first month’s rent would apply to the month you move in. So, be prepared to apply for the apartment on the spot.

You’ll have the most luck with rentals that have been sitting on the market, says Jacqueline Kurtz, a broker at Warburg Realty. So, do your homework and see how long the apartment has been on the market (StreetEasy includes this in their listings). If it’s been a while, you can (diplomatically, of course) mention it to the landlord when negotiating your move-in date.

A mid-month move

Another way to negotiate is to meet the landlord in the middle. If they aren’t willing to push the move-in date off an entire month, ask if they would let you move in on the 15th and prorate the rent.

Being flexible can work in your favor as well. For example, Lifshitz says that many of his buildings' leases don’t start on the first of the month to allow for time to paint and clean the apartment. So being willing to move in the middle of the month can mean you get a freshened up place.

If the landlord won’t negotiate the move-in date, you could ask if they’re willing to drop the rent, or offer a concession like a free month, if you go with the earlier move-in date. 

“In today’s market, if the landlord doesn’t offer enough wiggle room on the start date, there are plenty of other landlords that will,” Liftshitz says. Keep your options open and let the landlord know that if they aren’t willing to compromise, then you’ll just move on. 

Don't pay additional security

Also, keep in mind that it’s illegal to pay an extra deposit (anything more than one month’s rent) because of changes to the rent laws. If a landlord asks for additional security to hold the apartment, move on to another apartment.

And in the future, don’t start looking for an apartment too early.

It's a good idea to look online to get a sense of the market, but you shouldn’t connect with brokers and landlords until closer to your move in date, about one to two months before the end of your lease. You don't want to waste time—or fall in love with—a place you can't have. Nor do you want to deal with agents encouraging you to see listings if it is premature.

Keep in mind that if you are getting to the end of your lease and haven't found a new place, you can ask your current landlord to go month-to-month, as opposed to committing to a new lease. But be aware you lack the protections of having a lease.

And, if you’re looking to rent in a condo or co-op building, the process takes a little longer, and involves a board interview. “A renter would need to sign a lease a few weeks before move-in for a condo or co-op,” Kurtz says.

 

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