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Re: Breaking lease

Posted by TenantNet on January 08, 1997 at 20:11:46:

In Reply to: Breaking lease posted by Amy on January 08, 1997 at 14:44:19:

: I live in a rent-stabilized building in NYC. I have to break my lease at
: the end of this month (Jan). I gave a verbal notice to my landlord early in
: December and they started showing my apt to other prospective tenants.
: But since then, the landlord had changed his mind and took the apt off the
: market even though there were a lot of interest. He did not say why but
: I found out that he intends to renovate part of the apt after I leave so
: that he can rent it at a higher price. Am I going to be liable for the
: rent after I move out during the renovation period? I have also sent him
: a written notice regarding my departure and made efforts to help them to
: find a new tenant. The landlord seems to have trouble figuring out
: how much to charge for rent after renovation and he is not in any hurry
: to do so. Should I be concerned about this? Also, what is the policy on
: getting back the security deposit after breaking the lease?

Last question first. It's unfortunate that tenants are subjected to bogus
damage claims or just refusal to return the deposit (and with breaking
a lease it gets hairy) from too many landlords. That's why, even though it
may be technically against the terms of the lease, many tenants don't
pay the last month's rent to "reaquire" the security deposit. This won't
relieve them legally of any damage obligations, but it does put the shoe
on the other foot where the landlord has to come after them and not the
other way around. Unfortunately the deposit issue boils down to who has to
go after whom, and it recognizes that it's virtually impossible for
tenants to get back a deposit from a crooked landlord. The "correct" way
is through small claims court, but then you have landlords who invent all
sorts of reasons for not returning the money. We are not necessarily advising
tenants to do things this way, but recognize that this is an option that
many take. As for breaking a lease in connection with the security deposit,
aside from other things, they might claim, perhaps with some right, that
the deposit was waived in the breaking of the lease.

As for breaking the lease, it is recognized that a lease is a contract
for the aggregate amount of rent for the entire period, so even if you
move, you may be liable for the entire remaining amount.

However, especially in NYC, too many landlord "breach" the lease in
numerous methods: bad conditions, lack of services, overcharge, etc.
Any of these breaches may be grounds for breaking a lease.

On the other hand, if you just leave (and make sure you clean the place,
take photos, have a witness, do a walkthrough with the super, give notice
in writing by certified mail and can prove you returned the keys), in NYC
and many other places, it's the obligation of the owner to "mitigate his
damages" by trying to re-rent the place. He can do so in many ways, but
usually a newspaper ad is sufficient. In NYC with our low vacancy rate
it's almost assumed that any landlord can immediately re-rent any unit
unless conditions are so bad, rents are illegal, or he's putting some
stumbling block in its path. Here, you indicate he's stopped trying. You
should document that this is occurring. Have someone (with a job, with good
credit and who is not a drug dealer) try to rent the place and be rejected.

If he does re-rent the place, and if its at a higher rent (read windfall),
then that should be deducted from any claim he might have. Many tenants
are told they are responsible for getting a new tenant. This is bull.
However, it may behoove one to do so to obviate any claim of economic

His calculations on a new rent are really simple: 1/40th of the cost of
the improvements (maintenance doesn't count).

If he were to come after you, he must first find you, serve you with papers
and go through Civil Court (not housing court). That's a cumbersome process.
There might be (I haven't checked lately) some instances where he can
go to small claims court instead.

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