Leases are contracts between landlords and tenants for the rental of property. Provisions within these agreements explain the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Laws established by local, state, and federal governments apply to tenant-landlord relationships. Tenants are expected to fulfill their financial obligations until the lease expires (terminates), and generally are unable to end the agreement earlier. Under certain circumstances, three categories of tenants may be legally eligible to terminate leases prematurely: senior citizens, activity military members, and victims of domestic violence.
Lease Termination for Domestic Violence Victims
New York Real Property Laws allow leases or agreements for dwellings to be terminated in situations where the lessee or tenant has been issued an order of protection by a court resulting from domestic violence. The tenant may surrender the premises and be freed from financial liabilities owed to the owner or lessor beyond the effective date of lease termination. Tenants will provide a 10-day notice to the owner and any other co-tenants (other lessees), if applicable.
- A risk of harm that is either physical or emotional exists for the tenant, or to their child, by continuing to reside at the dwelling. This risk can be significantly reduced by relocating.
- Prior to a court-ordered lease termination, tenants must contact the owner to request voluntary termination of the agreement, of which the owner has refused.
- Tenant action must be deemed to be in good faith.
- All monies owed by the tenant must be paid up through the lease termination date.
- The conditions of the premises are to be consistent with the lease provisions pertaining to the lease expiration or termination.
Other Key Provisions
The lease termination date named by the court should be no sooner than 30 days or beyond 150 days of the upcoming (next) rental payment date after the owner is served with the order. If co-tenants (other lessees) exist, the court will not terminate their tenancy unless they request it. The tenant is not responsible for ensuring that the person who is the subject of the protection order is not present.
Qualifying for Federal Housing
The federal Violence Against Women Act offers safeguards for those victimized by domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, etc. These protections apply regardless of gender, identity, or sexual orientation. Those who meet the requirements for housing assistance may not be refused entry or aid, or be excluded or evicted, based on their being a domestic violence or sexual assault victim.
Removal of Abuser
The New York City Housing Authority or other owners of properties receiving federal assistance may split (separate) a lease when needed to evict or terminate the lease of a person found to have committed crimes such as domestic violence or sexual assault. When decisions to remove abusers are made, remaining qualifying tenants should not be punished nor have their rights infringed upon. If the abuser was the lone party eligible for housing assistance, any remaining household members are afforded time to find an alternative housing option.
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