There are two common methods for renting real estate in New York. The first is to directly lease the property from the owner. The second is to sublease part or all of the property from an existing tenant.
Leases and subleases are not the same thing. Each confers different sets of rights and responsibilities on the parties. For example, a tenant is still responsible under the prime lease for any actions of the subtenant. Let's say you lease a two-bedroom apartment from a landlord. You then sublease one of the bedrooms to your friend. If your friend damages the room, the landlord will hold you, not the friend, liable under the terms of the prime lease.
Subtenant Cannot Enforce Non-Existent Right Against Landlord
A sublease is always subject to the conditions and restrictions of the prime lease. So, to extend the hypothetical scenario from above, if you have a prime lease that ends in June 2016, the sublease with your friend cannot expire in September 2016. You do not have the legal right to sublease the apartment after the expiration of your own lease.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, recently addressed a similar issue in the context of a commercial sublease. In this case, a tenant leased a commercial property in Staten Island. The tenant subsequently subleased the property to a subtenant. The sublease included a provision granting the subtenant “the right to purchase the property from the owner at fair market value.”
Unfortunately, when the subtenant tried to exercise its purported right under the sublease, it discovered the prime lease between the landlord and the tenant contained no such language. This led to litigation between the subtenant and the landlord in Nassau County. The Supreme Court denied the landlord's motion to dismiss the subtenant's complaint, but on appeal, the Second Department reversed in the landlord's favor.
The Second Department explained that the subtenant simply had no enforceable legal rights against the landlord. The landlord never granted the subtenant the right to purchase the property at market value; therefore the tenant could not grant such a right to the subtenant. “A sublease can confer no greater rights on a sublessee than those afforded to the tenant by the prime lease,” the appeals court concluded. Indeed, there was no contractual relationship at all between the landlord and the subtenant.
Get Advice from a New York City Real Estate Lawyer
If you are entering into any type of sublease arrangement, either as the sublandlord or the subtenant, it is always a good idea to get it in writing. Even when dealing among friends, a properly drafted sublease can clarify each party's duties to the other and help avoid any misunderstandings. Additionally, as the case above illustrates, it is always a good practice to make sure a prospective subtenant is aware of and understands the terms of the prime lease.A qualified New York real estate attorney can advise you when negotiating a lease or sublease. Contact the offices of Nisar & Mason, P.C. today if you would like to speak with someone right away.