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Ask Real Estate


Time to Move On

I live with two roommates. Our market-rate lease recently expired. In the past month, we have tried to reach our landlord to renew our lease, and he has not answered the phone, our texts or our letters. We don’t know if he is out of the country, has changed numbers, or is simply ignoring us. What can we do, if anything, to get him to let us renew the lease? What is our current legal situation?

Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

You and your roommates are in a precarious spot with few legal options — and plenty of risk. When a market-rate lease expires, tenants are expected to vacate the premises. Now, you no longer have the protection of that lease, and no inkling of your landlord’s intentions.

“Staying beyond the expiration of a free-market lease is risky business,” said Lucas A. Ferrara, a Manhattan real estate lawyer and an adjunct professor at New York Law School.

The best-case scenario: Your landlord cashes your rent check, which amounts to a month-to-month tenancy. Come next month, you would be back in the same uncertain position. If your landlord rejects your check, he could begin eviction proceedings against you. If you are ultimately evicted, your landlord could demand substantially more rent for the months you lived there after the lease expired, and you could be responsible for his legal fees and costs. Added to that, you could land yourself on the dreaded tenant blacklist.

Your landlord’s lack of communication might seem cruel, but he is not obligated to offer a market-rate tenant a new lease. Take his radio silence as a passive-aggressive “no.”

“Legally, when faced with a wall or ‘cone’ of silence there’s little more one can do, but leave,” Mr. Ferrara said. “Best to assume it means no renewal; time to go your way.”

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A version of this article appears online and was in print on Sunday, July 26, 2015, on page RE9 of the New York edition with the headline: Evicting a Family of Raccoons.