West Babylon, NY asked in Landlord - Tenant for New York

Q: Is it legal for my apartment complex to charge me $10,000 to break my lease early?

My husband and I live in a one-bedroom apartment in New York State. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we now need to move in with a friend and her child. It is against our lease to have more than two people as tenants. We would like to break our lease to move into a bigger apartment, but per our leasing agreement, we are required to give 60 days notice and pay a $10,000 fee for early termination. (We have 8 months left in our term, which will be about $20,000 total.) I understand that landlords are allowed to charge the remaining rent under NY law, but I thought they were supposed to try to mitigate damages by finding another tenant to take the apartment for the same rate we are currently paying or for market rate, whichever is lower. Therefore, isn't it illegal for them to charge the $10,000 fee if they are able to move another tenant into the apartment immediately after us? (Additionally, it is against our leasing agreement to sublet, which I believe is also not legal.)

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3 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Lease agreements in New York are legally binding contracts, and the terms for early termination, including any fees, are typically outlined in the lease itself. If your lease specifies a $10,000 early termination fee, this fee is generally enforceable, provided it is not deemed punitive or unreasonable.

New York law does require landlords to mitigate damages by attempting to re-rent the unit, but this obligation doesn't automatically negate an agreed-upon early termination fee.

However, if the landlord successfully re-rents the apartment quickly, thereby mitigating their losses, you could potentially argue that the full amount of the early termination fee is no longer justifiable.

The enforceability of a no-subletting clause is common in New York leases and is typically legal. It's crucial to review the specific terms of your lease and consider the landlord’s efforts to mitigate damages. Consulting with a legal professional who can review your lease and provide advice based on your specific situation is advisable.

Steven Warren Smollens
Steven Warren Smollens
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Dear West Babylon Tenant

It is a violation of NYS law for a lease to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the tenant only. All leases mean with the expression tenant, the tenant and immediate family members. Restrictions to the contrary are not legal.

The mitigation statute eliminated lease clauses that set damages for a breach of lease. Your lease clause is likely unenforceable. In other words, tenants move out with the hope that the landlord complies with the mitigation of damages statute and rents the apartment rapidly.

Jack Mevorach agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

Jack Mevorach
Jack Mevorach
  • Cedarhurst, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: Doesn't sound right to me. Have a free telephone consultation with an attorney of your choice.


Steven Warren Smollens agrees with this answer

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