How To Break A Lease
If you, as the tenant, find yourself needing to break a lease, your first step should be to read the lease againcarefully.
You could get lucky: Some leases have an opt-out clause, meaning that breaking a lease is as simple as paying a previously agreed-upon fee, along with your last months rent.
Depending on the amount specified, it might make sense for the tenant simply to pay the rental termination penalty and then make a clean break, says David Reiss, academic programs director for the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.
Then again, you may not be so lucky. Some leases will say that a tenant is responsible for the rent due for the remainder of the term of the lease. And if youre terminating at the beginning of the lease, this could mean a lot of rent money.
Still, even in this worst-case scenario, a tenant may have some wiggle room based on how magnanimous the landlord is.
Required New York Rental Agreement Disclosures
Refer a Landlord, Earn $50
- An Avail Rent Analysis Report
- Tenant screening costs
- NYC Admin. Code § 27-2011. Landlords Duty to Repair. Landlord has a duty to repair when tenant has complained or filed a cause for repair against the landlord.
- NYC Admin. Code § 27-2045. Smoke Detectors. Landlord has a duty to provide working smoke detectors.
- NYC Admin. Code 27-§ 2046.1. Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Landlord is required to provide functioning carbon monoxide detectors.
- NYC Admin. Code § 27-2040. Entrance Door Locks and Intercoms. Landlord is required to provide automatic self-closing and self-locking doors at all entrances for certain dwellings.
- NYC Admin. Code § 27-2042. Elevator Mirrors. Landlord is obligated to provide elevator mirrors on the leased premises.
- NYC Admin. Code § 27-2043. Individual locks, peepholes and mailboxes. Landlord must provide a peephole in the entrance door of each apartment and also must install a chain-door guard on the entrance door to each apartment.
- NYC Admin. Code § 27-2029. Heating Season. Landlord has a duty to provide heat of 68° F, between Oct. 1 and May 31, when the temperature outside is below 55° F and 55° F between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. when the temperature outside is below 40° F.
You Are Starting Active Military Duty
If you enter active military service after signing a lease, you have a right to break the lease under federal law. You must be part of the “uniformed services,” which includes the armed forces, commissioned corps of the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard. You must give your landlord written notice of your intent to terminate your tenancy for military reasons. Once the notice is mailed or delivered, your tenancy will terminate 30 days after the date that rent is next due, even if that date is several months before your lease expires.
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What Is Considered A Bad Tenant
Bad tenants, on the other hand, will describe an evil person/company and will always blame someone else for issues be it the property, landlord, property manager or tradespeople for their reason for needing to move. Tenants that always have something or someone else to blame are usually the root of the issue.
Tenant Rights And Responsibilities When Signing A Lease In New York
A lease obligates both you and your landlord for a set period of time, usually a year. Under a typical lease, a landlord can’t raise the rent or change other terms, until the lease runs out . A landlord can’t force you to move out before the lease ends, unless you fail to pay the rent or violate another significant term, such as repeatedly throwing large and noisy parties. In these cases, landlords in New York must follow specific procedures to end the tenancy. For example, your landlord must give you fourteen days’ notice to pay the rent or leave ) before filing an eviction lawsuit. If you are a holdover tenant in New York City, your landlord may give you an unconditional quit notice, giving you 30 days to move out. .
Tenants are legally bound to pay rent for the full lease term, typically one year, whether or not you continue to live in the rental unitwith some exceptions, as follows.
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Move Out And Hope Your Landlord Re
If your landlord’s lease break fee is just way too highand you live in an area that’s popular with renters then you may be better off relying on something called “damage mitigation.” Laws passed in New York in 2019 now require your landlord to make a reasonable effort to re-rent as soon as you leave. They can only charge you for the time that your unit wasn’t occupied by a new tenant.
If you know that youll be leaving a month or two in advance, you can give your landlord the heads up so they can get started showing the place. You can also search for a new tenant yourself and refer them to the landlordif you can get someone lined up to move in as soon as you move out, you may not owe anything to your landlord at all. Just make sure the applicant is as qualified as you when it comes to income and . Otherwise your landlord can legally reject their rental application.
So What Does Breaking A Lease Mean
A tenancy agreement is a legally binding agreement. If it is broken, compensation will probably need to be paid. An unexpected break in the agreement does not mean that the tenant is not liable to pay for the remainder of the rent that is owed and needs to compensate the landlord for the same. If a tenant or property manager/owner ends a fixed term agreement before the end date without grounds they are breaking the agreement. This is also known as breaking the lease.
It must be noted that there are cases where a tenant has broken their lease and merely paid a fee or penalty to ensure that the landlord accepted their departure. Obviously, the terms in this situation are to be negotiated with the landlord themselves and cannot be thought to be very normative. An example of this happening is when a tenant is able to negotiate payment of three months rent to be released from a fixed end date lease.
While a tenant is not always required to provide notice for fixed end date leases, written notice must definitely be provided in order to terminate a month-to-month lease, the conditions of which depend on the area of residence and the location of the property in the city itself
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If Youre Worried Financially About Facing Eviction
If youre facing eviction, you might be worried about how its going to affect you financially. Parade asked financial guru and best-selling author Rachel Cruze what financial goals should look like in the time of COVID, especially if youre worried about eviction.
If youve lost your income and are struggling to pay your bills, your focus should be on covering your four walls. That includes food, shelter , utilities, and transportation, Cruze explains. If you have debt, I dont want you paying Mastercard when youre not able to put food on the table. Whatever money you do have should be focused on covering those needs first and foremost!
Once you have the bare necessities covered, Cruze recommends straightening out your income.
Money flows two ways. It flows in and it flows out. You need money coming in! Cruze tells Parade. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and if thats you, my heart goes out to you. Right now you need to get a jobany job! You might not be able to find something in your industry, but there are ways to earn extra cash. You could drive for Uber, deliver groceries, or look for online tutoring jobs.
Cruze adds, I want you to get scrappy and think outside the box. It might mean getting two or three part-time jobs. You have to do whatever is necessary to create money coming in to cover your four walls.
And if youre actively facing eviction, Cruze recommends getting vulnerable with your landlord.
Use A Lease Termination Letter
If your landlord doesnt allow reletting or subletting, you could end the lease yourself with a lease termination letter.
Youre legally allowed to vacate the premises without incurring any penalties, if your landlord does anything that violates the terms of the agreement.
Only use this strategy as a last resort, and only if your landlord is truly legally culpable and being unreasonable.
Verify if any of these claims are true:
- Landlord illegally enters the property: Has your landlord failed to give you 24 hours advance notice before entering the property?
- Landlord fails to uphold provisions in the agreement: Has your landlord failed to repair broken fixtures or provide utilities that were previously agreed upon?
- Landlord fails to provide a suitable living environment: Has your landlord allowed the property to fall into disrepair? Is the property so uninhabitable that its dangerous for you to continue living on the premises? In legal terms, this is often called a constructive eviction.
- The property is an illegal structure: Does your living situation violate regulations in your state?
- The lease agreement has illegal terms: Are there terms in your lease agreement that are unenforceable or illegal? This one requires more research into your states laws regarding leasing real property.
If any of these situations have occurred, you have grounds to terminate your lease. As a tenant, you still have rights that are legally protected.
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How Much Notice Is Needed For Raising Rent
In the state of New York, landlords must provide tenants with a 30-Day Notice, before they can increase rent more than 5%. A 60-Day Notice is required for tenants who have rented for between 1 and 2 years, and a 90-Day Notice is required for tenants who have rented for more than 2 years ).
If the landlord fails to provide the appropriate amount of notice, the tenant may continue at the existing rental rate even if the lease has expired and the landlord may not seek to evict the tenant for failing to pay the increased rental amount.
Landlords renting regulated properties must provide tenants with 90-120 days notice before raising rent.
Avoid Breaking Your Lease In Winter If Possible
Breaking the lease in the slowest seasonal time for rentalsNovember through February or Marchmay be more problematic than in summer. You and your landlord may find it more difficult to get a replacement tenant. Horigan says rents can be anywhere from 10 to 30 percent lower in winter and the landlord may have to offer more concessions in order to fill the place.
That said, it may also depend on how many similar units the landlord is trying to rent. Bolger says sometimes, from the landlords perspective, to add another unit to the market is costly: If a building has five one-bedrooms units available for the month of July and you are going to throw another one in the mix, that doesnt help the landlord at all, he says.
On the flip side, if your lease ends in the slower winter months and you are looking to break it in the summer, a landlord might appreciate it if you can find a new 12-month renter with a summer start, when prices are much higher. The smaller landlords are not always thinking about this and it can help get the landlord to work with you, Horigan says.
Note that most people start looking for a place to rent 60 days in advance and up to 90 days on full-service luxury apartments. The best starting place is to have the apartment marketed 60 days in advance of a lease break says Bolger.
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Consider Reletting Or Subletting
If youre having trouble negotiating a clean break with your landlord, consider finding a new renter to either relet or sublet the property. Finding a replacement on your own is a great way to alleviate your landlords fears about losing money when you move out.
Here are the differences between the two options:
- Reletting: Reletting is when you or your landlord find a new renter to take over your lease. The new renter will sign a new lease agreement with your landlord, which then voids your original agreement and releases you from any legal obligations.
- Subletting: Similar to reletting, subletting is when you find a new renter to take over your lease, and they pay rent to you directly. In this case, the new renter signs a sublease agreement with you. However, your name remains on the original lease agreement. This makes you responsible for anything that happens to the property, including if the new renter is late paying rent. Because your original lease is still active, you arent technically breaking a lease if you sublet .Not all landlords allow subletting. Check your lease agreement or ask your landlord before identifying a new renter.
At the end of the day, its still your landlords property, so making sure that they approve of the new tenant is extremely important.
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How Difficult Is It To Break A Lease
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By Ronda Kaysen
Q.My wife and I live in a rent-stabilized apartment in Long Island City, Queens. We are thinking about moving next spring, months before our lease expires. Our landlord informed us that if we break the lease, we would either incur a penalty equal to one and a half months rent, or be held responsible for the rent until the space is rented to someone else or the lease expires. We see no reference to such a penalty in our lease. What advice do you have for avoiding these penalties or negotiating more favorable terms?
A. Sign a rent-stabilized or market-rate lease and you are bound to its terms. Unless the apartment is rendered uninhabitable because of poor conditions, your only way out would be to sign a written agreement with the landlord terminating the lease. New York law is unforgiving to tenants who want to break their lease, said Jennifer Addonizio Rozen, a Manhattan tenant lawyer.
Your landlord is offering you a way out: Pay the hefty fee and you can terminate the lease. This is not a penalty found in your lease, but instead an offer to let you out of it.
This type of agreement would not be found in the lease. Instead, That would be a separate contract where your landlord would accept something in exchange for releasing you from all liability under the lease, Ms. Rozen said.
Swap Addresses Not Landlords
If you rent from a major landlord who owns multiple properties, you could ask to switch to another apartment in their portfolio. Its possible some of the bigger management companies will let you break the lease in this case.
Some landlords are also countering requests from tenants to go month to month as a result of the pandemic by offering to add clauses saying you can move out early, without penalty, if you give 30-days notice. This gives you the legal protections of a lease and locks in your rent. With a month-to-month arrangement, the landlord can increase your rent at any time.
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The Consequences Of Breaking A Lease
Whether youve worked out a deal with your landlord or plan to just move out and stop paying rent, there are financial and legal ramifications. A few possibilities to consider:
- You may owe a penalty fee or lose your security deposit. In many cases, a landlord will let you out of your lease early as long as you pay a termination fee. The amount can vary. For Puliti, it was two months rent, plus whatever she owed until her move-out date. When Greenwich Village resident Andrew Edward broke his lease, he says, all he had to pay was his one-month security deposit.
- You might get sued. If a landlord has done everything legally on their end, they could choose to sue you for breach of lease. If the landlord wins, you would be on the hook for the unrented months, plus lawyer fees, says Himmelstein.
- Your credit score could be damaged. Technically, your landlord could report you to the credit bureaus if you are delinquent in your payments. And if a collection agency is hired, any debt collection could wind up on your credit report. But this is unlikely, Himmelstein says: I dont think most landlords report rent to credit agencies, and theyd have to go out of their way to report delinquent payments.
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