Ever wonder what it would be like if all the leases in town expired on the same day? Well, for over a century that’s what happened every year in New York City:
It’s hard to believe, but for more than a century, all New York City leases expired and started on the same day of the year, May 1. This meant thousands of families loading up the entirety of their belongings onto carts and maneuvering them through the cramped city streets to new apartments.
The origins of this unfortunate practice are hazy — some say it began with English celebrations of May Day. But by 1820, the New York State legislature signed a law stating that unless you worked something out with your landlord or renewed your lease, all leases were up on the first of May.
Landlords would inform their tenants of any rent increases for the coming year on February 1, giving tenants three months to find a new place or decide to stay. With the new rent due on May 1, most families elected to remain in their old abodes until the very last moment, moving en masse using horses and carts.
And you thought doing turns in August on student properties was wild.