Q: Wanted to terminate my lease earlier because of financial hardship due to COVID -19!
Due to the pandemic, I experience financial hardship. I tried to negotiate the rent but the landlord won't assist on that matter except using their hardship program which we did use the deposit to pay the month of September rent. I was looking at different alternatives and also to terminate my lease early. The landlord states that I will be responsible for the rent until the apartment is occupied by someone or pay a 3-month rent fee (closed to $12000), which will put our financial situation in jeopardy. After reading the lease several times. nothing stated anything of what they told me and not even a mention of early termination or notice! Can I leave a 30 days notice and not been penalized as they said?
When you sign a lease you are entering into a contract. The landlord is promising to rent you space for a specific use and a specific period of time. Likewise, the tenant is promising to rent a particular space for a specific use for a specified period of time. Unless there is a clause in the lease that allows for earlier termination, there is no right for either side to terminate a lease early. There is nothing a landlord can do to stop a tenant from moving; however, moving does not end the tenant's obligation to pay rent. In New York, the landlord has a duty to try to mitigate damages by attempting to re-rent an apartment but in this market it is very difficult for landlords to find new tenants. Bottom line, the tenant can be responsible for the full rent until the end of the lease regardless of whether they remain in a rental unit.
Some landlord's may offer tenants an option to terminate a lease early for a fee even if this provision is not in the lease. The landlord's have the right to make this type of offer but cannot be forced to do so unless the lease requires it. Some tenants accept this type of deal to limit their exposure for continued liability under the lease but you can always take your chances that the landlord won't actually sue you for the remaining balance of your lease.
A: This seems funny coming from an attorney, but reach out to one immediately. My office, and many others routinely handle this matters affordably. Your landlord has certain responsibilities (and some rights). There are ways to navigate this situation. However, I would need more facts from you before I could give you a more solid answer/solution to your problem.
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