Need to Break Your Rental Contract? Read This First

There may come a time when a NYC renter needs to break a rental contract. The repercussions of breaking a lease can be quite costly, so this article lays out issues that renters should be aware of before they sever ties with their apartments.

How important is a rental contract? In a word: very. Consider the following: You’ve been in your apartment for a few months when you find out that your significant other just found a great deal on the most fabulous apartment. Together, the two of you can easily afford the new place and live out your NYC fantasy. You excitedly decide that you’ll just cut the lease short on your current place so that you can move into your new love nest. Well, slow down there, pardner. Cutting your rental term short means that you will be in violation of your lease. Depending on the landlord, this could end up being a very costly venture you’re about to embark on. Listed below are some things you should think about if you’re thinking about breaking your lease.

1. If you have to break your lease, give your landlord as much advance notice as possible

Landlords make their money by charging rent, naturally, so if there are no renters in their apartments, they’re not making money off those spaces. When tenants tell their landlords early on that they may be breaking their leases, it gives them enough advance notice to make arrangements — and thus more amenable to reaching an agreement with the tenant. For all you know, rents in the area could have gone up dramatically since you signed your lease, and your landlord could be itching to get a higher-paying tenant into the space.

2. Start your search for a replacement tenant as soon as possible

In the state of New York, tenants are responsible for the financial repercussions of breaking a lease. The fact of the matter is that you will be responsible for making sure that the rent is paid through the end of the rental contract, whether you reach into your pocket and pay it yourself or whether you’re able to find an acceptable new tenant who will cover the costs. So it’s in your best interests to hit the pavement as early as possible to find a landlord-acceptable tenant who will live in the apartment and pay the rent for the remainder of the lease.

3. Ask landlords what they’re looking for in replacement tenants

You may think that your buddy from your band Thrashing Tongues may be a really cool guy and would be a perfect replacement for you, but your landlord might not be as keen on the idea. Before putting all of your energy into a fruitless search, find out exactly what your landlord will be looking for in a new tenant.

4. Determine whether the new tenant can stay on in the apartment once the lease is up

When you find a tenant to take your place, the transfer of the terms of your original rental contract is called the “assignment of lease.” And when the lease is up, the landlord might choose to look for a brand-new tenant, which may be a deal breaker for prospective tenants looking for long-term digs. So find out up front what your landlord’s expectations are.

5. Find out if your particular circumstance allows you to break your lease without penalty

There are circumstances where New York tenants are allowed by law to break their leases without penalty, including adults and children who are victims of domestic violence or tenants who have been living in documented unsafe building conditions.

The more familiar you are with how your rental contract works, the more prepared you’ll be if you ever have to break your apartment lease.

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