The Right Way To Break Your New York City Rental Lease

Let’s say you signed a contract with a Manhattan landlord for a 12-month or 24-month rental lease, and then something happens in your life after you sign—maybe your wife is pregnant and you’ll need more space, you got a new job (or lost one), someone is sick and you need to take care of them for the foreseeable future, or any one of a thousand possible scenarios. The bottom line is that now you need to get out. So, what should you do? The first thing on your to-do list is to check out our top tips to help you get out of your lease in New York City!

Don’t Tout New York Subleasing Laws to Landlords

First off, as the long standing expert in the “lease break” space, we want to first strongly advise against the urge to start touting New York laws to your landlord, or immediately trying to hire an attorney. Most laws suggest the landlord needs to work with you on some level, but in reality they have a lot of leeway, and the last thing you want is to go to court. Landlords know their way around the New York City court system very well, and while laws tend to be very favorable to tenants, this should be a measure of last resort. (You are probably stressed enough trying to get out of your lease.)

Go for the “Win-Win” Solution (Most Landlords Will Try to Work with You)

Explain your situation to your landlord. Generally speaking, as long as you can provide a qualified replacement tenant, the landlord should be okay with letting you out of your rental lease. Often a “lease break” can be a “win-win” for both you and the landlord. How so? Here are four examples:

  1. 1. Landlords love to have their leases end in the summertime when the rental season is busiest. Perhaps you getting out of your lease would give the landlord that opportunity, if your lease currently ends at another time of year.
  2. 2. Landlords love to make more money. Generally speaking lease prices rise over time. If the landlord could end your rental lease early, and start collecting higher rent from a new tenant sooner, why wouldn’t they?
  3. 3. Landlords love easy tenants. If you are an unhappy tenant, emailing the landlord regularly to ask for repairs or file a complaint, your landlord may be more than willing to say hasta la vista to you in favor of a new tenant.
  4. 4. Landlords love problem-solvers. Your unit is probably one of many that the landlord has to worry about. It is very possible they are trying to accommodate another tenant’s needs or deal with a problem in another unit—perhaps if you end your lease early, another current tenant could swoop in, allowing the landlord to fix two problems at once. (Stranger things have happened!)

Understand Your Options

While there are a few landlords (we would estimate less than 10%) who would flat-out refuse to let you out of your rental lease, most landlords have a very specific-yet- unique process to deal with people who want to get out early. Some will provide you an option or two, with or without penalties. You may be allowed to find a new tenant to sublet your apartment for the remaining months on your lease, or your landlord may want a new 12-month lease to be signed. Your landlord’s particular requirements may be a combination of these. If you have one of those landlords who absolutely refuses to let you out of your lease, even by trying to find a replacement tenant, you should first truly consider if there are other options besides going to court (such as staying in the apartment for the remainder of your lease) . The cost, time, and stress of a legal case may just not be worth it. However, if you decide to go this route, we would strongly advise you to seek a landlord-tenant attorney who can properly advise you. We would not suggest trying to represent yourself.

Market Your Apartment

If your landlord does allow you to find a replacement tenant so that you can break your lease, the best way to market your apartment is to post it as a rental on our website, (Unlike most things in Manhattan and everywhere else in the Big Apple, using our site is totally free.) We are the #1 New York City website for leasebreaks, short-term rentals, and shares. Please reach out to us at [email protected] if you have any questions—we’re glad to help!

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