When Can You Legally Break Your Lease Early?

When you sign a lease agreement to rent an apartment, typically you do so with the intention of staying in that apartment for the whole duration. Sometimes, though, you may want to leave an apartment before your lease is up, but doing so may mean you face financial or legal penalties. So when is it legal to quit your lease early, without getting in trouble?

  1. Landlord lease violation
    • It is easy to forget, but landlords are bound by the terms of a lease agreement, the same as tenants are. This means that if a landlord breaks the terms of your agreement, you can choose to leave the lease rather than come to some kind of solution. This may mean spending time reading your lease to know what the terms are, ideally with the aid of a lawyer who can help you understand what it all means.
  2. Constructive eviction
    • “Constructive eviction” is the legal term for being effectively removed from your apartment because it is no longer safe to inhabit. This can happen for a number of reasons, including a lack of important utilities like heat or water, a failure to repair broken facilities, or the failure to address an infestation from pests like mice or roaches. When an apartment becomes unsafe to live in, you have no legal obligation to continue living there.
  3. Breach of quiet enjoyment
    • When you rent an apartment, that comes with the implicit promise that you will be able to use that property in peace, without fear of unnecessary disturbance. However, some landlords will ignore this implicit promise, and barge in on tenants without warning or good reason. As a tenant, you do not need to put up with these disturbances, and can break your lease to find somewhere they respect your privacy.
  4. Active military service
    • Serving in the military is one of the greatest duties someone can undertake, but unfortunately you do not get to choose when you are called to active duty. If you sign up for active military service, or get called into service from reserve, you may legally break your lease without penalty. That way, you can focus on preparing to enter service, rather than wrestling with your landlord over your lease agreement.
  5. Domestic violence
    • Under New York State law, you can choose to break your lease if you have been the victim of domestic violence and need to leave your current residence. This law was passed to protect victims of domestic violence from getting trapped in dangerous relationships due to their living arrangements. However, breaking a lease for any reason can be complicated, and you should seek the guidance of a lawyer knowledgeable in tenant rights to advise you on your best next steps.

If you have questions regarding your rights as a landlord or tenant, you should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling these matters. A New York landlord-tenant lawyer, who is experienced in handling landlord-tenant cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you are facing a dispute over unpaid rent, lease violations, or other similar issues, contact the Suffolk County landlord-tenant attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

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