How to Break Your NYC Apartment Lease the Right Way

In New York City, signing a lease can be a reason for celebration: you got an apartment for rent in NYC, where scoring a rental is a tough nut to crack and you can’t be kicked out of it, provided you don’t do anything illegal that breaks the lease. But there’s the rub: the lease also legally binds you to pay property rent for its specified term. This means that if you want to leave the property early, no matter the reason, you can’t just move out of it without a financial penalty. Plus, the current coronavirus pandemic has skyrocketed the cases of lease break, raising awareness among the landlords and the authorities. So, if you are trying to leave your apartment for any reason before the lease term, it won’t be as easy as you think.

Here’s how to break your NYC apartment lease the right way:


Ask To Be Released in Writing

As soon as you realize that you need to leave the apartment, inform the landlord or management authority in writing — preferably in an email sent by the registered email — explaining why you want to get out of the lease. Try not to provide false reasons; be transparent and upfront. Many landlords act reasonably, understanding the tenant’s situation, which is why approaching them first is the best path to go down. Some may ask you for regular access to the apartment so that they can show it to other potential tenants, while others may ask you to find a replacement to cover the lost rent. Depending on your situation and whether you are going to help them find a qualified tenant, they may let you walk you out of the lease without a penalty or hold your proposal until they re-rent it. However, if you are walking away early, be sure to get your landlord to sign a surrender agreement mentioning your legal release from the lease.


Find Another Tenant


So your landlord agreed to release you on the condition that you will find them another tenant. And you know someone willing to move into your apartment for rent in NYC as you leave. The problem, however, is that many landlords don’t approve of the new person so that they can quickly re-rent the place. A tenant must pass the financial criteria of the landlord, which usually includes earning 40 times the monthly rent and having a clean credit record, and proof of employment, and other screening processes that the landlord may have in place. If the new tenant is not eligible for the apartment in NYC, the landlord can refuse the proposal, providing a reason for the refusal. On the other hand, if the landlord refused the new tenant, you have the right to sublet the apartment by requesting the landlord or suggest another qualified tenant. However, these rights may vary depending on the type of property you leased and the lease term.


Avoid breaking the lease in winter


Breaking the lease when the rental market typically takes a beat, which is from November through February or March, will only lessen the chances that the landlord will let you leave early without penalty. The best time to get out of the lease before the term is the summer season, as tenants flock NYC during the summer and look for NYC apartments, which allows the landlords to find qualified tenants quickly. So, if possible, avoid breaking the lease during winters for your best chances of walking early without taking a financial hit.


Final note


While there’s no sure-fire way to get out the lease without a penalty in NYC, you can, in all likelihood, leave early if you notify the landlord in writing, find them a replacement, and be in good terms with the landlord.

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