The outbreak of the coronavirus has hit New York City harder than any other city in the United States. Not only have more than 19,000 NYC residents died and more than 174,000 have been infected with COVID-19, thousands of New York City businesses have shut down, some maybe for good. Thousands have lost their jobs, and some are thinking about moving out of the city permanently.

If you want to end your lease early because you want to move out of New York, what are your options? Should you just move out if you’ve lost your job and don’t know when you might be able to get another one?

Eviction moratorium

New York renters should know that if they can’t pay rent because of a job loss right now, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has prohibited any evictions until August 20. If you already had an eviction in progress, it can’t move forward until that date. New York lawmakers also have proposed extending the moratorium on evictions for an additional six months, so renters have longer to pay their missed rent.

Negotiating rent

If you know it may be longer than six months before you can fully pay your rent, you may want to see if your landlord is willing to renegotiate your rent. Be polite and straightforward when you talk with your landlord about this. Right now, your landlord may be more willing to lower your rent if others in your building have moved out since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Ending a lease early

If you just want to end your lease as quickly as possible, you have the right to assign the balance of your lease to another tenant.  If the landlord unreasonably rejects another qualified tenant, the landlord has to let you out of your lease in 30-days.  If you don’t assign the balance of the lease you may have to pay a penalty if there is one in your lease and may also be liable for rent until the apartment is re-rented. A landlord has a duty to make all “reasonable and customary” steps to re-rent the apartment at the lower of the last rent or the current market rent and the burden of proof is on the landlord to establish that this was done.  Other defenses to the balance of the rent related to the health emergency and “stay-at-home” order, such as “frustration of purpose” or “force majeure” may also be available.

Don’t hesitate to consult a tenant rights attorney if you feel you need to. Working with an attorney can ensure you’ve done what you need to end your lease early and move forward with your relocation plans.