breaking lease in new york

Most tenants sign a lease agreement with the plan to stay for the full duration of the agreed term. However, sometimes it’s not possible to stay until the formal expiration date.

Here are some common reasons for tenants wanting to break a lease in New York:

  • Wanting to live closer to elderly parents.
  • Moving in with a significant other.
  • Getting a new job in a different location.

These reasons don’t have the legal justification for early termination. However, there are some exceptional cases that provide legal grounds to break a lease early in New York. As a New York landlord, it is important that you’re aware of them should such a situation arise. 

Ending a Lease Early 

Lease agreements obligate both you and your tenants for a defined amount of time, such as one year. After signing a lease agreement, tenants are legally bound to pay rent for the full lease term.

It is of no significance whether they actually live in the property or not. Regardless of their physical location, they have a duty to pay the rent due until the lease agreement expires.

Even though the lease agreement is a legally binding document, there are laws in place that allow for exceptions. Under specific circumstances, your tenants can legally move out before their term ends.

how to get out of a lease

Getting Out of a Lease – Legal Termination 

Let’s take a closer look at legally justified reasons for breaking a lease in New York:

#1: Legal Reasons to Break a Lease – Active Military Duty

It is legally valid to break a lease if your tenant enters, or was already part of, active military duty. This specifically applies to uniformed services, which includes the following branches: 

  • Armed Forces.
  • Commissioned Corps of Public Health Service.
  • Commissioned Corps of the Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.
  • Activated National Guard.

In this situation, your tenant can provide you with a lease termination notice that states the reason for breaking a lease. After submitting this handwritten notice, the tenancy ends thirty days after the next rent payment is due.

#2: Victims of Domestic Violence

According to New York state law, domestic violence victims have early termination rights. However, there are certain conditions that tenants need to meet in order to do this. For instance, your tenant has to secure a court order of protection. You should remain up to date on these conditions at all times. 

#3: Termination of Lease because of Harassment or Privacy Violations

New York doesn’t have statutes that would specify how much notice you have to give your tenants before entering the property. Still, you must understand privacy rights and repeated violations or breachings of these rights are not tolerated under the law. 

how to break a lease legally

Tenant harassment includes the following actions:

  • Turning off utilities for retaliation.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Removing windows or doors.
  • Changing locks without prior notice.

In most cases, harassment justifies breaking a lease. No obligation to pay rent due would follow.

#4: Moving to a Residential Facility for Seniors

Under New York law, tenants who are 62 years of age or older who can’t live independently anymore have the right to terminate their lease early. This is provided they are moving into a nursing home or similar type of senior citizen housing.

#5: Legal Ways to Break a Lease – Inhabitable Rental Unit

New York has health and safety codes that set the minimum standards for rental properties. Should the property not meet these standards, your tenants must notify you immediately so you can make the appropriate changes. Your tenant can be “constructively evicted” if you do not make repairs within a given time period. 

Here are some of the ways a rental unit must be kept habitable:

  • Electrical, heating, plumbing, sanitary, and ventilating systems are in good order.
  • Appliances are safe and in good condition.
  • The property and public areas surrounding it are free of garbage and vermin.

#6: Breaking Lease Early via Early Termination Clauses

Recently drafted lease agreements often include terms that would allow tenants to terminate a lease. The lease agreement should outline the amount of notice required as well as the fee. For example, the clause could specify a notice of 45 days and a penalty worth of one months’ rent for a tenant who wishes to break their lease early. 

how to break a lease

Reasons to Break a Lease that aren’t Legally Justified

Many states have laws that allow early termination of tenancy that New York does not. For instance, failure to include disclosures or landlord lease violations is not a valid reason for lease termination in New York. 


However, it’s always possible that you and your tenants reach a mutual understanding. In this case, there is no reason the dispute has resulted in a civil agreement and there is no need to turn it into a legal dispute. 

Breach of Lease – New York Re-Rent Laws

You may wonder whether you need to re-rent when your tenant breaks their lease. While this is a legal necessity in some states, New York doesn’t have a clear stipulation on this.


The best approach is to have your tenants proactively find a replacement renter. The new tenant needs to be properly qualified. For instance, they should have great references and a decent credit score.

Breaking a Lease in NY State – Conclusion 

Lease agreements are legally binding contracts. Your tenants need to pay their rent payments until the lease agreement reaches its expiration date.

The following are the legally justified reasons why your tenant could break their lease early: 

  • Inhabitability of the rental unit.
  • Harassment or regular privacy violations from you as their landlord. 
  • Following through with an early termination clause.
  • Moving to senior citizen housing.
  • Being subject to domestic violence.
  • Active military duty as part of the uniformed services.
  • Reaching a mutual understanding with you without legal intervention.

how to get out of a lease early

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney. Laws frequently change, and this post might need updating at the time of your reading. Please contact Sterling Property Solutions at (914) 355-3277 for any questions you have in regards to this content. You can also contact us in regards to any other aspect of your property management needs.