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How to Break a Lease with No Penalty Fees in New York

Breaking a lease usually means paying between one and two months of rent as a penalty. Try these tips to reduce or get rid of your penalty fee.

If you want to break a lease in New York make sure you understand what a lease break is and if your landlord is required to let you break your lease. Once you're sure that you want to break the lease, prepare to negotiate the lease breakage fee as much as possible.

  1. Make sure this is the best option for you

    A lease break is when your landlord terminates your lease completely and signs a new lease with a new renter. You no longer have any claim on the apartment and you are no longer responsible for rent payments.

    Before moving forward, consider subletting. You have the most rights in New York as a subletter, and it is the best way to avoid paying hefty breakage fees.

    Once you're 100% convinced that a lease break is the best option for you, keep reading.

  2. Get familiar with your rights and your landlord's rights

    Your landlord is not required to let you break your lease. Landlords in New York - and in particular New York City - tend to charge high fees in order to let you break your lease. These fees range from one to two months of rent, which is a lot considering that the average rent price in New York City is north of $3500 for a one bedroom.

    Not only that, but in New York he or she also isn't required to mitigate the damages caused by lost rent. This means that if there are six months left on your lease in New York then your landlord could force you to pay for all six months, and leave the unit vacant while you pay the rent.

  3. Look for loopholes

    Before you start negotiating the breakage fee with your landlord, make sure there aren't any loopholes that would help you to get out of it entirely.

    Has your landlord been keeping the building and unit habitable safe and livable at all times? This is called the warrant of habitability, and if you can prove that your landlord is in violation of it, you might be able to evict yourself instead of paying a fee.

    You should also double check that your lease does not have a clause that offers you an out in case of emergencies. One of them might apply to you, so it doesn't hurt to check.

  4. Negotiate Your breakage fee

    Assuming you have decided that you do not want to find a replacement tenant, you should speak with your landlord and try to negotiate your breakage fee down. While a landlord isn't required to cut a deal with you, they are likely to. Get a sense of the negotiating tactics that might work best for you and your situation, then explain your situation and ask your landlord if they have a policy on lease breaks.

    Out of all the different angles that we describe in our general guide to breaking a lease, helping your landlord to make more money and keep their leases on an ideal schedule are most relevant for New York City. Rents increase quickly here, and rent increases that a landlord can pocket from taking a lease to market in June rather than February are meaningful.

Next steps

Trying to negotiate and terminate your lease without losing thousands of dollars is worth a shot, but if you're sure you want to save this money you should be prepared to actually find a new tenant, qualify them and sublet or assign to them. Check out our guide to subletting in New York.

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