NYC residents know that there are many ways to rent an apartment or home. While most people have a written lease, this is not always the case. Sometimes landlords use more informal methods, such as a verbal agreement.
What are your options if you do not have a written lease? Does it give your landlord the freedom to change the terms of your lease agreement, including the rent, at any time?
Tenants’ rights attorney Sam Himmelstein says that a verbal agreement is still a binding agreement. So depending on your specific circumstances, your landlord may not be allowed to just raise your rent. But it is important to know how the law applies to your situation.
If you live in a building that is rent-stabilized or rent-controlled, there are laws that the landlord must follow when raising the rent. If you live in an unregulated or market-rate apartment, the landlord can raise your rent as he or she chooses when you renew your lease. They cannot, however, violate the terms of your lease. Landlords who violate the terms of any lease can be held accountable. A lease is a contract, and if a landlord violates the terms, he or she is in breach of contract.
Are you being harassed or facing eviction?
It is extremely common for landlords to harass tenants when they want them to move out so they can charge a new tenant a higher rent. Even if you have a verbal lease agreement, you still have rights. Tenant harassment is illegal.
The city offers free legal counsel to lower-income tenants facing eviction – call 311 or click here for more information. You can also hire a lawyer to represent you in Housing Court if your landlord is harassing you or threatening you with eviction. This is a complex issue, especially if you have a verbal agreement, and having a lawyer on your side is beneficial.