When you should break a lease

On Behalf of | May 28, 2019 | Landlord & tenant representation |

In the ever-changing urban landscape of New York, a building or a living space can become unsafe. In addition, you can come in conflict with building management or your landlord. Sometimes there are no other reasonable alternatives. You must leave a residence before the expiration of the lease agreement.

In the event this happens, you’re “breaking the lease,” and that essentially means you’re violating a contract. Building management has a legal responsibility to provide a safe, functional and healthy living space. However, if the facility, apartment, or other aspects of the environment do not meet the terms of the lease agreement, the landlord or the building maintenance company has not met the terms of the lease. In such cases, you should leave the living space to protect you and your loved ones. The City of New York has established laws on lease breaking

For the vast majority of the renting public, these tenant lease violations are rare, but they do happen.

Factors for breaking a lease

Lease conditions altered: The landlord changes the conditions of the lease before the lease has expired. This is a clear violation of the law and you should not be compelled to remain and live under unreasonable conditions and unwarranted demands.

Unsafe living conditions: The landlord is legally bound to provide a rental space that is structurally and mechanically sound, so it cannot have a leaking roof, animal infestation or mold. These hazards make inhabiting the space a health risk for the tenants.

Reasonable services suspended: A landlord cannot change the locks, turn off the heat, stop electricity or other basic utilities as a tactic to force you out of the apartment or facility.

Infringement of privacy: The landlord must provide sufficient notice to enter the apartment or space. He or she cannot simply “drop in”. The landlord cannot secretly place video cameras, microphones or other surveillance devices in the apartment.

Domestic violence: If you or a member of your family are in danger of domestic violence and cannot remain in the space due to safety concerns, the tenant has a right to leave the premises.

Active duty military: Members of the U.S. military have the right under the War and National Defense Servicemember Civil Relief Act to leave an apartment before the end of a lease. If you’re serving in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard and a few other governmental agencies, then this legal provision applies to you.

Moving to senior care facility: If a renter cannot live independently any longer and is 62 years of age or older, then this law is applicable as well. A senior citizen cannot be forced to pay the remainder of a lease if he or she cannot care for themselves in an apartment.

As a tenant, you should document time and place of lease violation with a written record. In addition, you should take photographs of any applicable violations or problems, this will constitute valuable evidence in any legal proceeding.