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Lease Start Date vs. Move-in Date: What You Should Know

Find your next Apartment
February 24, 2021
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In New York City, there is a wide variety of different rental options available to suit almost every preference and lifestyle. Whether you’re a young professional looking for affordable housing who might be looking for a 1-bedroom apartment or you have a family that needs a duplex, you will be able to find an apartment that’s a great fit for you. Furthermore, you will find that different neighborhoods in the city have different vibes, from the laid-back and cozy atmosphere in Williamsburg to the trendy and chic environment found in SoHo. Given such a variety of rental options, it’s no wonder that New York has a renter population of around 5.4 million people, making it one of the biggest renter populations of any major US city.

If you’re considering moving to New York or you’ve already found the perfect apartment, one of the things that you would need to do is sign the lease. Signing the lease is standard for renting an apartment in NYC. However, what does it mean when you sign the lease on a certain date? Does it also mean that you would need to move in on the same day?

Here’s what you need to know about your lease date vs. the move-in date.

Signing Your Lease

Once you have your heart set on a particular apartment, you will need to pay a deposit to the property owner to ensure that it is removed from the market and that it will be reserved for you. If you do not pay the deposit, the property owner will not be legally bound to hold the property for you. If they get a better offer for the property, they may choose to rent it out to someone else, and you will not have any recourse against their decision. A verbal agreement is not legally binding.

Aside from paying the deposit, the property owner will also run a background check and a credit check to ensure that you will be able to pay the rent. This will often entail submitting pay stubs or a current bank statement. However, if you are not able to fulfill thefinancial requirements needed to rent an apartment in NYC, friends or family can act as a guarantor for you. You can also find companies to offer that service.

What Do I Pay Upon Signing the Lease?

When you sign your lease, you will need to pay the first month’s rent along with a security deposit. The security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent. According to the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, property owners cannot ask for more than one month’s rent and a security deposit during the lease signing.

Aside from the first month’s rent and the security deposit, you will also need to pay the broker’s fees if you use a service to find the apartment. Make sure that you are aware of any broker’s fees before you commit to an apartment.

If you use Alex the Chatbot to find an apartment, you will not be charged because the service is free. However, if the apartment you want is managed by a broker, the broker can charge you a separate fee for their services. If you want to avoid broker fees, Alex has a feature that shows listings without this fee.

In some cases, the property owner might charge a deposit to accommodate your needs. If you are a smoker, some property owners might add a “cleaning fee” to help sanitize and remove any lingering odor inside the unit once you leave. If you have pets, you can be charged with a pet deposit to cover any damages caused by your pet during your stay.

Take note that under the Fair Housing Act, service animals are not considered pets and a property owner cannot charge you for a pet deposit. You will need to provide proof that the animal is a registered service animal and that their presence is a form of therapy ordered by a mental health professional. However, the property owner can still charge a security deposit to cover damages, and if the animal receives nuisance complaints from other tenants, the owner has the right to remove it through legal proceedings.

After you have finalized and signed the lease, you will need to decide your move-in date.

Why is the Move-In Date Different from the Lease Start Date?

While your lease date starts on the date specified on the lease, it does not necessarily mean that it will also be your move-in date. In order to maximize profits, many property owners will set the start of your lease on the same day or close to the end of the previous tenant’s lease. However, this means that while your lease has technically started, the property has not undergone any needed cleaning or renovations from the previous occupancy to get it ready for you.

This is why it’s important to double-check with the property owner and finalize your move-in date. Since most renters don’t move in immediately after the previous tenant moves out, this gives the property owner some time to clean the apartment and make small repairs and touch-ups to make the apartment feel fresh and ready for occupancy. However, it can also lead to some problems in case you’re ready to move in and the apartment isn’t ready at that time.

Take note that you are well within your rights as a renter to move in at any time after you sign the lease. When you negotiate with the property owner over the move-in date and finalize a specific day, it basically becomes a “good faith” agreement that you will not move in earlier.

What if the Property Owner Asks for a Prorated Rent?

If there are circumstances that will make you need to move in earlier than your agreed-upon move-in date, some property owners may ask for prorated rent. Even if they insist, you are under no obligation to pay any additional money, since you have already settled all your financial obligations during your lease signing.

When Can I Get The Keys?

In most cases, you will get the keys on your move-in day since the property owners will get to access the apartment to clean and repair the unit. However, you can ask for a copy earlier in case you want to check how the apartment is coming along. It all boils down to how well you can speak with the property owner.

When it comes to renting, it’s always a good idea to start off the right foot with the owner as much as possible.

Do I Need to Think About the Move-Out Date?

When you sign the lease, the move-out date is often the same day as the lease will end. This means that the property owner will expect that the apartment will be vacant and ready to be cleaned/repaired on that date, just as you did when you moved in. Being aware of the move-out date will ensure that you will move out in a smooth, timely, and organized manner.

However, if there are unforeseen circumstances that might prevent you from completing the signed lease, you might want to clarify what that would entail with the property owner during the lease signing process. It’s better that you would know what prematurely breaking the lease would entail so that you can be ready for that scenario.

You won’t be able to get your deposit back (unless the problem is with the property or the owner), but you should know what you need to do with regard to your property. Will you have a grace period to move out your furniture, or will the owner require that you vacate the property immediately? Is there a storage unit in the building where you can place your belongings temporarily while you search for a new place?

These are the questions that you should clarify so that you are prepared in case you’ll need to vacate the unit earlier than the date specified on the lease.

Familiarizing Yourself With Dates to Avoid the Headache

Moving into a new apartment is already a huge task, to begin with, and you should make it as smooth and hassle-free as possible. Make sure that you have a firm and clear agreement with the property owner regarding both the lease start date and the move-in date to avoid any sudden changes in your moving schedule. If you're ready to find your new home, Alex the Chatbot is ready to make your search easy as 1-2-3!

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