Is it possible to break a lease in NYC?
Let's say a situation arises that you really need to get out of your lease. You may wonder, is it possible?
First, disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Unless you and your landlord see eye to eye on the issue, you most likely need to consult with a legal professional.
Now, let's start with the basics:
The first and most important thing to understand is that a lease is a contract. It is a written agreement and most likely has a term (meaning a starting and ending point) in addition to clear promises and obligations between the parties who signed it.
This is where some tenants get confused. Tenants tend to think of things on a month to month basis. In contrast, landlords think in leases terms, (which is correct, since the lease is signed with a beginning and ending date.) That means that you bought into the entire "term" of the lease". This confused me greatly because when I lived in Japan most of the leases I signed allowed termination with 2 months notice .
This leads to the second point: Since a lease is a written agreement, it is important to read through it in its entirety. This includes an attachment called the rider. Go here for a description of what a lease should include and how it should be written by the Attorney General of the State of New York's website.
Now, suppose you decide to break your lease. Here are 5 possible scenarios.
It is here that it is good to know the meaning of two words: assignment and constructive eviction.
Assignment means that you ask the landlord to look for another tenant (and also try to find one yourself) and if someone else is found they take over the lease. Go here for some general information from the Met Council on Housing.
In turn, constructive eviction is when the living conditions in your apartment are so bad you literally sue to have yourself evicted. This isn't something that you can magically do on your own. There are specific circumstances and it is something you have to sue for in court. In addition, before you do this, you'll likely have to prove that you took earnest steps to get the problem resolved.
Here are three municipal complaint resources you may need to utilize should your landlord be non-responsive to complaints about living standards:
In addition to this, there are other circumstances in which you're allowed to break a lease without penalty. For example...
All in all, the takeaway:
Remember that a lease is a binding contact and you need to seek advice from the appropriate legal professional before breaking it, otherwise it is you who could end up sued and in court.