A rental agreement is a legally binding document between a landlord, the property owner, and the tenant, the person who pays for use of the property. The agreement, otherwise known as a lease, contains all the provisions and terms for the duration of the lease period.

Can I Legally Terminate a Lease?

A lease is intended to be binding for the duration of the lease period that the landlord and tenant agree on when the lease is signed. There are, however, some conditions under which a person can legally break a lease agreement.

  • Tenants or children of tenants are victim of domestic violence and need to leave premises for their own safety.
  • Elderly tenants moving to nursing home or assisted living situation.
  • Individuals about to start active military duty.
  • Landlord has harassed tenants, violated their rights, or engaged in illegal activity targeting them.
  • Tenants endured unsafe conditions on the property.

How Can a New York Landlord Mitigate Damages for a Broken Lease?

When a lease is broken, mitigating damages refers to the amount of money the landlord has lost by losing the tenant. This is the sum of the remaining monthly lease payments that the tenant will no longer be able to pay. Some states require the tenant to arrange for the landlord’s receipt of the mitigating damages, either through finding a new tenant, or through paying the damages themselves. In New York, case law decisions have been mixed depending on a number of different circumstances pertaining to each individual situation.

What If the Landlord Can’t Find a Suitable Replacement Tenant?

If the landlord is unable to find a suitable replacement tenant, the remaining lease money owed is likely to be deducted from the security deposit and, if it was paid, last month’s rent. If there is still outstanding money owed on the lease, it is possible the landlord could seek damages in small claims court.

Should I Consult a Lawyer Before Terminating My Lease?

Before terminating a lease, it is wise to speak with both the landlord and a real estate attorney. The landlord can give you some idea of what to expect in such a situation. Often landlords have ways to easily secure new tenants such as through brokers or private listings sites. A landlord-tenant lawyer can advise you of your options regarding a broken lease and help you lessen your risk of paying mitigation damages.