Do you have a lease with your landlord? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably yes. Many tenants don’t even realize they have a lease until it’s time to move out and pay their security deposit or first month’s rent.

An increasingly common arrangement in both rental housing and apartment complexes alike, leases are an essential part of modern society, especially when it comes to renting property. They make it easier for landlords and tenants to find common ground by clearly outlining the responsibilities of each party. For landlords, leases protect them from having to deal with renters who constantly break their rules or aren’t able to afford their rents. For tenants, leases protect them from having to deal with unreasonable rents or landlords who constantly force them out for no reason.

There are many landlord-tenant laws that protect tenants from lease violations caused by their landlords, and in this article, the real estate law attorneys from Balsamo, Rosenblatt & Hall, PC explain how tenants can recover money for those violations.

What is a security deposit?

Security deposits are meant as a form of “insurance” against damage to an apartment for the life of a tenancy.   The deposit is intended to be money that you save for any damages you do to their property. It’s their way insuring that you can pay for any damage you cause to the property during your tenancy.  This could be as simple as nail holes for hanging pictures on the wall or as severe as burning down their house.  Security deposits are not the same thing as a cleaning charge. Those are different things entirely and are only required when a tenant moves in and out of a rental unit.


Can you get your security deposit back?

If your landlord has charged you a security deposit, and there is no damage beyond the normal wear and tear an apartment would go through during normal occupancy, you should be able to get some, if not all, of your deposit back, explain from the New York City-based boutique Real Estate law firm, Balsamo & Rosenblatt.

You first have to determine if you have any legal rights as a tenant. If so, you can try the following strategy. Take photos of the apartment when you move out of the apartment.  Make sure to get pictures of all of the walls and floors, and label them.  Submit a letter to your landlord requesting the return of your deposit.  Keep track of the response you get from your landlord.  If you get a simple “no” or “I’m not giving you any money” response, or, if they do not respond and return your security deposit within 14 days of your moving out, you may want to consider getting legal advice.

Whether you are a renter who is leasing a house or apartment or a landlord who rents out real estate, there are a variety of reasons that you may need legal advice. Balsamo, Rosenblatt & Hall, PC can help you analyze your situation, determine what your rights are, and make a well-informed decision about how to protect your interests.


What is a first month’s rent payment?

First month’s rent payment is the amount you are required to pay your landlord for the first month of your lease. This is the amount you will pay your landlord once you sign the lease agreement, usually in the form of a check or cashier’s check. Often, when you sign a lease, you are required to pay a prepayment of a month or a few months’ rent. The terms and conditions of the lease state that if you don’t pay the rent, then the landlord gets to keep the rent until the end of the lease or until the landlord decides to evict you.


Can you get your first month’s rent back?

Generally speaking you cannot get the first month’s rent back after moving in to the apartment.  There are certain exceptions, though, such as if you vacate and surrender within 3 days of moving in, or, if you never actually move in and take possession at all.  In other circumstances, you can negotiate a partial refund if you reside in the apartment for less than a full month before If you need to vacate.


Other ways to get money back from your landlord

Landlords are allowed to charge you for late fees and other penalties, but those fees must be clearly spelled out in your lease. If your lease specifies a late fee of $25, for instance, and your landlord charges you that fee, there is nothing you can do. Keep detailed records of your rent payments and other expenses you are incurring as a tenant, such as repairs to the property. If you notice that you are having to pay for more than normal for repairs, then you may want to consider asking your landlord for a refund.


Final words: Do you have legal rights as a tenant?

Generally, once you sign the lease agreement, you are legally bound to the terms of the lease. You are legally obligated to live up to your responsibilities as a tenant. This means that, at the end of the lease term, you will be legally obligated to pay your rent, as well as any other expenses you incurred during the term of the lease agreement.

If your landlord has not returned your security deposit, you might be able to get that money back by filing a small claims lawsuit against your landlord. This is a very serious move, though, so only consider taking it if you have exhausted all other options.

If your landlord has been charging you late fees or other penalties for late rent payments, you can also file a small claims lawsuit against your landlord. This would be a civil lawsuit, which is different from a criminal lawsuit.

If you have been harassed or threatened by your landlord, you can also file a harassment complaint with your local housing code enforcement office or the Court.  This law enforcement office is designed to protect tenants from harassment by landlords.

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, with the skilled team of Balsamo & Rosenblatt on your side, you can be sure that every option has been explored to your best advantage and to minimize your exposure to unnecessary risk. We have been providing our clients with the most professional, economical, and efficient legal services available since 1988.

If you are a New York City renter who has been harassed, discriminated against, or illegally evicted, we are here for you and are committed to helping you recover money for your losses. We believe that all members of our community, regardless of their financial resources, are entitled to legal representation.

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