Does the sentence:

I am renting an apartment in New York.

imply that I am the landlord or the tenant?

How can I unequivocally communicate that I am the tenant (or the landlord)?

  • 26
    Rent is an example of an auto-antonym.
    – Cameron
    Jul 12, 2012 at 17:00
  • 3
    Complements aren't antonyms, are they? Jul 12, 2012 at 19:00
  • 7
    In practice, outside of a landlord-related context, "rent" is almost always used in the tenant sense. It's probably safe to use it that way and only add clarification if you're using it in the landlord sense.
    – octern
    Jul 12, 2012 at 19:54
  • 3
    @octern: I don't know if that's an American perspective, but in British English, "to rent" (and indeed, "to hire") can describe both sides of the arrangement in a wide variety of contexts (vehicles, all manner of equipment, etc.). The sense becomes fixed if the verb is followed by "out" (only the owner can rent/hire out), but in practice the context invariably means there's no ambiguity anyway. In essence, both verbs often just mean to be one of the two parties involved in a rental arrangement. Jul 12, 2012 at 20:18
  • 3
    The exact same word also is an auto-antonym in French: Je loue un appartement à New-York is ambiguous. The simplest way to clear the ambiguity is: Je suis locataire d’un appartement… means i'm tenant, Je suis loueur d’un appartement means I'm landlord.
    – Benoit
    Jul 12, 2012 at 20:50

14 Answers 14


To "unequivocally communicate that I am the tenant (or the landlord)", among other things you could say one of the following.

• As tenant, I rent an apartment...
• As landlord, I rent an apartment...

As previously noted by choster, adding out to original sentence works for landlord sense:

I am renting out an apartment in New York.

You can state a not-landlord case, and perhaps imply tenancy, via

I pay for renting an apartment in New York.

  • 2
    I think this answer is more complete than the others, so I am accepting it. It also summarizes what others have said, and provides two alternative answers to my second question. Jul 12, 2012 at 20:08
  • May I pay you $500 a month to rent out your apartment to others for $1000 a month? In this case, "pay for renting [out] an apartment" would make sense.
    – ErikE
    Jul 13, 2012 at 1:54
  • 1
    @ErikE, re last line of answer, I agree it has the ambiguity you mention: there can be a landlord who owns an apartment and rents to a broker (the speaker) who in turn is landlord to actual tenant. An ambiguity I contemplated but didn't mention is a landlord who says pay for renting and means suffer anguish due to renting out. Jul 13, 2012 at 14:41

As a renter I usually think of the tenant as renting, but the dictionaries seem to disagree with me as to primary use.

If you are the landlord, you could say

I am renting out an apartment in New York.

I have an apartment for rent in New York.

I am letting an apartment in New York.

  • 1
    This helps, but it's not a complete solution. The tenant also needs a phrase that allows them to avoid ambiguity.
    – octern
    Jul 12, 2012 at 19:51
  • 1
    @octern Despite the dictionary definition, colloquial usage is from the perspective of the tenant. It's usually not considered ambiguous.
    – Izkata
    Jul 12, 2012 at 19:54
  • 1
    I'm living in a rented apartment in New York.
    – J.R.
    Jul 12, 2012 at 21:54
  • 4
    Letting to me honestly doesn't seem to fix the problem. Can't a landlord let an apartment?
    – ErikE
    Jul 13, 2012 at 1:55
  • 4
    @ErikE when I read it, that's the meaning I thought was being implied as sole meaning.
    – Nicole
    Jul 13, 2012 at 5:16

Rent is indeed ambiguous that way.

However, the two senses have different syntactic affordances.

  • I rented a house in Ypsilanti. (ambiguous: Subject = tenant or owner)
  • I rented a house in Ypsilanti from him. (unambiguous: Subject = tenant)
  • I rented a house in Ypsilanti to him. (unambiguous: Subject = owner)
  • I rented him a house in Ypsilanti. (unambiguous: Subject = owner)
  • I rented out a house in Ypsilanti. (unambiguous: Subject = owner)

And there's lots of other ways to disambiguate them; in context, one is rarely confused.

  • 3
    +1 for that last sentence. The diametrically opposed meaning (which often also applies to hire) might look odd to non-native speakers, but in practice ambiguity is exceptionally unlikely. Jul 12, 2012 at 20:24
  • 1
    Although, I might argue that the second to last sentence, "I rented him a house" could be interpreted as "I found and rented a house for him so that he had a place to stay while he was visiting."
    – Jim
    Jul 13, 2012 at 6:29
  • 1
    Yes, benefactive for phrases allow the Dative Alternation, i.e, I rented a house for him <==> I rented him a house. Provided he winds up with the house; if I just filled in the papers in his stead and somebody else lives there, I rented the house for him, but I didn't rent him a house. Jul 13, 2012 at 13:07
  • Can I use I rented in.. as a tenant? Or does it not make sense?
    – Sertage
    Aug 4, 2015 at 14:33
  • Yes, in that context, rent contrasts with own, as two methods of securing shelter. However, own requires an object, whereas rent doesn't, at least not with subject tenant; landlord subject requires an object. Q: Where do you live? A: I rent in Ypsilanti but not *I own in Ypsilanti. Q: How do you make your living? A: *I rent in Ypsilanti; that would have to be I rent apartments/houses in Ypsilanti. Aug 4, 2015 at 16:49

Tenant: I'm living in a rental apartment in New York.

Landlord: I'm renting out an apartment in New York.

  • 1
    You can rent an apartment without living in it, or indeed using it at all. It would probably be a pretty good way to get rid of some of one's cash to rent an apartment and not use it, but that's a different matter.
    – user
    Jul 12, 2012 at 20:22
  • 3
    You can also live in a rental apartment without, yourself, renting it!
    – ErikE
    Jul 13, 2012 at 1:56

Unfortunately, the MW Dictionary entry for rent as a verb shows two entries:

1: to grant the possession and enjoyment of in exchange for rent

2: to take and hold under an agreement to pay rent

So the word officially can mean either.

I know that I personally would assume that if you "rent an apartment", then you are a tennant, but due to the ambiguity there's always room for doubt. But when in doubt, just add a clarification to your sentence.

One example: I own an apartment for rent.

  • 2
    Why is that "unfortunate"? It's good to know that M-W lists both definitions; otherwise, it would be neither a useful nor accurate dictionary.
    – J.R.
    Jul 12, 2012 at 21:55
  • @J.R. Well said. The unfortunate was that it is perfectly ambiguous, but it is fortunate that's its accurate :)
    – ngmiceli
    Jul 12, 2012 at 22:35

Does the sentence: I am renting an apartment in New York. imply that I am the landlord or the tenant?

If you use the word rent for both a landlord and a tenant then, that sentence is unclear.

How can I unequivocally communicate that I am the tenant (or the landlord)?

By use of the word let. As can be seen from the link here http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/let_3, the word let unequivocally refers to a landlord. The word rent, normally refers to a tenant.

As a tenant, you can say "I am renting an apartment/flat (depending on which form of English you are speaking) in New York."

As a landlord, you can say "I am letting an apartment/flat (depending on which form of English you are speaking) in New York."

This would be the best way because, it is simple and unequivocal.

  • The catch to this is that the tenant side is still ambiguous to the reader. Unless you explain that you are only using "i am renting" in the "tenant direction", the reader has no way of knowing that. (I don't claim to have any answer better than adding more words to clarify.)
    – Jay
    Jul 12, 2012 at 20:06
  • Although your link and sense 3 of let at wiktionary both plainly mention rent, I'm still inclined to think of let as covering both rental and leasing. I could be wrong. I thought about mentioning let and lessor in my answer but supposed question distinguishes renting and leasing. Jul 12, 2012 at 21:34
  • 1
    The tenant side does not have to remain ambiguous, if the word let is commonly used. This raises an important point. As long as certain people use the word rent to mean the landlord side as well, there will be ambiguity. People should really, distinguish this clearly by using the word let, more often. This would be the logical way to go about it.
    – Tristan
    Jul 13, 2012 at 14:59

I am letting an apartment


I have an apartment to let

would imply that you are the landlord, or at least the letting agent. But certainly not the tenant.


When I first read your question title, I had trouble figuring out the ambiguity -- I thought it had to do with whether your sought apartment is to be in New York, or whether you are in New York, looking for an apartment somewhere else. :)

I found it quite unambiguous, since I always thought landlords lease property, whereas tenants rent property.

I didn't think renting was ambiguous, in part because if someone were the landlord, he/she would probably write lease instead (e.g. leasing office).

  • Haven't heard of a leasing office, but (in the UK, at least), there are letting agents, who manage properties on behalf of landlords. Aug 2, 2012 at 16:16

The word is definitely ambiguous by itself. To be more explicit, I would expand the phrase:

"I own an apartment(room/house/complex) that I am renting out in New York."


For the owner, use "renting out", and be definite ("my apartment"):

I am renting out my apartment in New York.

For the tenant, use "renting", and be indefinite ("an apartment):

I am renting an apartment in New York.

With the slightest bit of context, I think these would be understood unambiguously.

  • "Renting out my apartment" gives me the impression of subletting to someone an apartment I'm renting from someone else. Jul 12, 2012 at 21:36
  • I agree with jwpat7. The singular my apartment carries the connotation that you are renting it from someone, not that you own it. Probably because most landlords have more than one apartment for rent, and most rentees only rent one at a time.
    – Daniel
    Jul 12, 2012 at 22:18
  • @jwpat7 Could be, but I think New Yorkers know how to use "sublet" when they mean that. Jul 13, 2012 at 9:25
  • @Daniel δ How could "renting out" mean that I am renting it from someone? Jul 13, 2012 at 9:26
  • @talkaboutquality You can rent out what you are renting from someone.
    – Daniel
    Jul 13, 2012 at 14:44

Changing the verb to a phrase with context to owner also works.

  • change renting (v.) to "for rent" (n.)

I need an apt. "for rent" in NYC.

I have an apt. "for rent" in NYC.

I have an apt. "for sublet" in NYC that you may "rent".

... are unambiguous examples. edited apt. for appt.

  • You may want to use "apt." to abbreviate apartment. "appt." is generally short for appointment.
    – Evan M
    Jul 12, 2012 at 21:26
  • 2
    Why abbreviate at all? This isn't Twitter. (Also, why the scare quotes?)
    – Marthaª
    Jul 12, 2012 at 22:05
  • @EvanM In NYC, even appointments are for rent :P
    – Daniel
    Jul 12, 2012 at 22:15

"I am staying at a rented apartment" shows you are a tenant and "I have an apartment to let" shows you are the landlord.


In UK English one would say:

  1. I'm renting a flat [from xyz]. (I'm the tenant).
  2. I'm renting out my flat [to xyz]. (I'm the owner).
  3. I'm letting my flat from xyz. (I'm the tenant).
  4. I'm letting my flat [to xyz]. (I'm the owner).

If you are a tenant, you would be "renting" an apartment.

If you are a landlord, you would be "letting" an apartment.

Sometimes landlords will use the word "rent." In this case, they need to say that they are renting OUT an apartment. For emphasis, a landlord could say that s/he was "letting out" the apartment.

A tenant could say that s/he was "letting in" an apartment, or letting an apartment from [the landlord]. That's not common.

Because a tenant is renting IN an apartment. That is what is commonly understood by the word "rent."

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