Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph - Manhattan Tenant Rights and Representation Attorney
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How do I break my apartment lease?

This is an extremely common question. And while friends and family may think they know the answer, relying solely on their advice can be risky. A lease is a contract, and both parties are obligated to meet the terms. As a tenant who wants out of the lease, this typically means it is your responsibility to find a new tenant or prove the apartment is uninhabitable.

Keep in mind that moving out before you resolve these issues is inadvisable. You will owe the remaining rent, and your landlord may decide to sue you for it. You may get a bad reputation as a tenant and have trouble finding a new place to rent. If your landlord releases you from the lease, it's important to get that in writing.

Options for getting out of a lease

The first step is to contact your landlord in writing, letting him or her know why you want to break the lease. In some cases, the landlord may let you break the lease or tell you what you need to provide in terms of a new qualified tenant to take your place.

New tenants must be qualified to rent the apartment or the landlord will reject them. You need to give your landlord documentation regarding the person's ability to pay the rent and meet other requirements of the lease. By law, unless the landlord has valid reasons to deny the new tenant, he must let you out of the lease within 30 days.

If you do move out and the landlord comes after you for rent, you can raise as a defense that you were constructively evicted. If the apartment has issues that make it uninhabitable, you may be able to prove the landlord did not adhere to the warranty of habitability. Documenting the problems is important. Get an inspection by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development - or start an HP proceeding - to obtain proof of the housing code violations. These cases can be complex, so speaking with a lawyer is a good idea.

If you are a rent regulated tenant, you should not approach the landlord without first talking with a tenant attorney as you may have other options in regard to getting out of your lease.