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Breaking a Lease in a New York City Apartment

Posted by Melvin Monachan | Feb 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

Perhaps you have a roommate that is intolerable, are ending a relationship, or have a great job offer in another town? To break a lease, first you should determine what your remaining obligation is. The best initial course of action is typically to reach out to the landlord. This should be done in writing, such as through a registered letter explaining the circumstances. New York law does not favor those seeking to break a lease, yet options do exist.

Lease Basics

Rental agreements that are executed in writing are considered leases. Verbal contracts are possible also, but are much less common. A lease will specify the rental period (term) and a fixed amount of rent to be paid for this term. Those who break these contracts may be sued for breaching a contract in court.

Replacement Tenant or Sublease

You may be able to locate a tenant to replace you, as long as they meet the landlord's qualifications. In this arrangement, the landlord would release you from your existing lease within 30 days. If your apartment building has four or more units, you may sublease your apartment to another party. There are popular sites now, such as PadSpin or Flip, that can assist you in locating a tenant. Any changes to a lease agreement must be mutually agreed upon by all the original parties. Subleasing is not permitted in apartments that are subsidized by the government.

Uninhabitable Conditions

If the reason for your leaving the apartment is based on poor conditions, such as lead paint, bed bugs, or mold, you may be eligible for constructive eviction. This is based on a landlord's failure to adhere to the terms of the contract regarding the maintenance of the property's condition. To execute a constructive eviction, you must vacate the unit. Prior to vacating, it is critical to document the problems clearly. Contact the local Housing Preservation Agency or Department of Buildings first for an inspection, and if either one finds violations making the unit uninhabitable, you have an advantage.

Pay Termination Fee

Review the terms of your rental agreement to see if provisions exist regarding early lease termination, such as paying a fee to exit the lease. If the rental market is very strong, they may allow you to exit by paying several months of rent or offer another “buyout” option such as waiving your rights to the security deposit. 

Other Tenant Circumstances

NY Real Property Law allows those age 62 or older to terminate a lease with a 30-day notice if they are moving to:

  • A facility offering adult care services or residential health care;
  • Subsidized housing for those with low incomes;
  • A senior housing complex; and/or
  • An exception also exists if an individual is deemed as not medically able to live independently.

Those actively in the military that are being relocated to another area may terminate lease agreements with a 60-day advance notice.

If you live in New York City or any other place throughout New York, you should know both your rights and responsibilities regarding leasing a home. It is always best to be within the law than outside of it, faced with a lawsuit.

About the Author

Melvin Monachan

Melvin Monachan is the founder of The Law Office of Melvin Monachan, PLLC, a full service, real estate law firm representing individuals, investors and corporate entities in all aspects of real estate law. On the transactional side, Melvin represents purchasers and...

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