The Nest

NestApple's Real Estate Blog

Featuring real estate articles and information to help real estate buyers and sellers. The Nest features writings from Georges Benoliel and other real estate professionals. Georges is the Co-Founder of NestApple and has been working as an active real estate investor for over a decade.

When Can You Break A Lease?

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If you are like most renters, there are moments when you wonder why you live in the area that you live in. Sometimes, it’s because kids keep playing wall ball near your study. Other times, it could be that the neighbor next door has a terrible case of bed bugs. In rarer cases, it could be a matter of having a breakup that may have harmed your safety. Regardless, it’s always good to know what you can do if it’s time to leave a place. Breaking a lease is something that you can only do under extreme circumstances. If you’re between a rock and a hard place, you might want to read about your rights for breaking a lease term. What happens if you break a lease? How much does it cost to break a lease?

When Can You Break A Lease?

Can You Ask A Landlord To Break Your Lease?

There’s some good news for people who live in small-scale apartment buildings or have understanding landlords. You can always politely request to terminate a lease with a landlord legally, and you can do that legally. Moreover, many landlords are open and accommodating in the right circumstances. Remember, your landlord binds you with a contract after you have signed a lease.

So, if you are serious about leaving, by all means, try it out. However, there is a caveat here. If you ask a landlord to break your lease without extenuating circumstances and they say no, you don’t have any recourse. Allowing you to break the lease without a valid case legally is a significant gesture of kindness on their end.

Another option is to find a new tenant. The landlord may ask you to find a replacement tenant. We recommend giving your landlord 30 days to 90 days of heads up. Worse case, you can continue renting “month to month.”

Are You Allowed To Break Your Lease In The Event Of A Breakup legally?

Breakups happen, and when you live with someone, you may want to leave ASAP. In many cases, landlords understand and let you go, even if thebreaking a lease breakup was pretty chill. However, they are usually not legally required to break the lease. The only time New York City landlords are legally required to allow you to break your lease is if domestic violence is involved in your relationship.

What Do NYC Domestic Violence Laws Say About Breaking A Lease?

The state of New York has a series of landlord-tenant laws that involve breaking a lease due to domestic violence. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. You have a right to “lease bifurcation.” This means you can remove the abuser from your lease without worrying about legal penalties on your end.
  2. The landlord is not allowed to ask you for documentation of the abuse. While they can request it, they must accept whatever proof you give them. This includes self-certification.
  3. If you are getting public assistance, you still have the right to receive it even if you broke the lease. This is important to know if you are in Section 8.
  4. Discrimination is illegal if you are a victim of domestic violence. It is not your fault if someone hits you, and landlords cannot deny you housing.
  5. Apartments and landlords are allowed to evict people who have perpetrated domestic violence. They are a danger to others.

What Should You Do If You Have To Leave Due To Domestic Violence?

The best thing to do is to explain the situation to your landlord. Then, ask what your options are. You may get your STBX evicted, or you may getwhat happens if you break a lease shelter for a while. What happens if you break a lease agreement?

Most landlords will understand the moment that you say that somebody abused you. They will also give you the option of breaking the lease.

Can You Break A Lease If Your Apartment Is In Disrepair?

Yes, you can. If you have repeatedly asked, in writing, for the landlord to fix specific issues without any action, you may have legal grounds to break the contract. New York City’s landlords are legally responsible for maintaining a safe and sanitary living place for their tenants.

If they don’t offer reasonably comfortable accommodations, it’s a breach of contract. If your apartment is in disrepair, you generally have two options that you can pursue to take your power back as a renter:

  1. Withhold Rent For RepairsIf you have to get repairs out of pocket, this is an excellent way to ensure that your landlord gets the point. Talking to a real estate lawyer about this is a good idea since not all repairs could be under this umbrella. In most cases, you also should notify your landlord that you will withhold rent due to repairs.
  2. Call It A Breach Of Contract. If you have a landlord from H-E-L-L, you may have a breach of contract. This says that your landlord didn’t hold their end up in the deal.

How Can You Tell If Your Apartment Lease Is Worthy Of A Break?

What happens if you break a lease? New York City has very strict and clear building codes. These include regulations regarding fire safety, leaky plumbing, a lack of adequate heat, and poor insulation. If you recently moved in and noticed bed bugs or other pests in your home, this can also be a reason for you to break your lease.

If you can prove that the unsafe conditions in your apartment aren’t from you, you can usually hire a real estate attorney to bring them to court. This is, of course, if the landlord refuses to work with you to break the lease or repair your items.

destroying a contract

Should You Talk To A Real Estate Agent?

At NestApple, we make an effort to help educate people on their rights as a renter. However, we are also aware that issues with rental contracts can go above and beyond what a real estate agent would know. If you need legal counsel, talk to an attorney.

In the meanwhile, you still need to find a place to live. Give our agents a call when you’re up for your next apartment. We’re here to help.

The Consequences (and Cost) of Breaking a Lease

What happens if you break a lease? Whether you’ve worked out a deal with your landlord or plan to 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. A landlord often lets you out of your lease early if 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 the 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 the landlord hires a collection agency, any debt collection could affect your credit score and even result in a police report. But this is unlikely, Himmelstein says: “I don’t think most landlords report rent to credit agencies, and they’d have to go out of their way to report delinquent payments.”

Keeping the security deposit

Most states allow landlords to keep the tenant’s security deposit, typically equal to one month’s rent if the tenant breaks the lease. That takes one extra month, and if the tenant moves out a month early, you will have been made whole, assuming the tenant caused no damage. If they did, you would need to bill your tenant for the damages and then sue them if they don’t pay.

Most cases end up in small claims court, capped at $10,000 due to the small amounts.

You can also bill your tenant for what the tenant owes. But before you do, check your state law on whether you need to make an effort to re-rent.

Written By: Ossiana Tepfenhart

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