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My landlord never signed the lease for my rent-stabilized apartment. Is this a problem?

  • A rent-stabilized lease is binding once a tenant signs it, even if it lacks the landlord’s signature
  • You are supposed to receive a signed copy of your lease 30 days after you sign it
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
November 22, 2023 - 2:30PM
Young woman, signing a contract during an meeting with a male real estate agent

A rent-stabilized lease is valid the moment a tenant signs it. This is not the case for market-rate renters. For them, a landlord must sign a lease before it becomes binding.


I moved into a rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn in April. My landlord never returned a signed copy of the lease to me, I only have the copy that I signed. Does this affect my rights as a tenant, or make it easier for him to evict me?

You have the same rights as any other rent-stabilized tenant regardless of whether your landlord gave you a signed copy of your lease.

When you sign your lease and send it to your landlord, they are obligated to return a copy of the lease with his signature within 30 days, according to New York City’s tenant’s rights guide. But if your landlord fails to do so, he is still bound by the lease once you’ve signed it, according to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, which administers the state’s rent regulations.

“Once there's an offer on a lease, [and] you sign it and return it, the landlord is bound,” says Catherine Grad, a partner at Himmelstein McConnel Gribben & Joseph (and a Brick sponsor FYI). “The failure to return the lease does not negate the obligations under the lease.”

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Additional protections

This is not the case for market-rate renters. For them, a landlord must sign a lease before it becomes binding. 

Rent-stabilized tenants have additional protections when it comes to leasing and renewing an apartment, Grad says.

For example, if you choose to renew your apartment at the end of your lease and your landlord doesn’t send you a renewal notice or lease, your old agreement would simply remain in place, Grad says.

How to get a copy of your lease

If you’re still concerned, you can file a complaint with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to get a copy of your signed lease, though it may take some time, says Jason Blumberg, a staff attorney at Mobilization for Justice, a free legal assistance service for New Yorkers.

But in the meantime, you have “no fewer rights for the absence of the lease,” Blumberg says. 

Limitations on evictions

Your landlord is not able to evict you more easily because you don’t have a copy of your lease with their signature. And rent-stabilized tenants can only be evicted under specific circumstances.

For example, if you’re not using your apartment as your primary residence, have broken your lease or the law, or refuse to pay your rent, your landlord can begin an eviction proceeding. But if your landlord catches you violating your lease, you usually would have an opportunity to address those problems before being evicted.

Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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