Q. I just moved into an apartment and decided I hated it after only living there a week. It really was my fault as nothing has changed, I just realized that there are a number of things I can’t live with, like the fact that it's so dark.
If I break my lease, do I have to pay the entire year in rent or do I just lose my security deposit? Also, do I need to find a tenant to replace me?
A. If you were to simply move out and stop paying rent, your landlord could potentially sue you for their expectation damages--the full amount of rent they expected to receive under your lease.
Unlike landlords in most jurisdictions of the United States, New York landlords do not have an obligation to attempt to mitigate their damages, which means you could be liable for the entire year’s rent even if you move out.
However, if the landlord did re-rent the apartment, you would be on the hook for the remaining rent you owe under the lease, the expenses of re-letting the apartment (e.g. payment of a broker’s fee or marketing costs) plus their legal expenses, minus the rent the landlord receives from the new tenant. Your security deposit would likely be applied against this final amount.
Your best option is probably to speak with the landlord and let them know of your intentions. You can probably come to an agreement by which you can search for a replacement tenant while you continue to pay rent. The landlord will have the right to qualify the new tenant, but they will probably agree to cooperate if you do all of the work and stay current on your rent.
You may wish to speak with a broker to assist you with leasing the apartment. In the current market, tenants are generally paying the listing broker’s commission, so it will probably not cost you anything to elicit their assistance. The broker should also be able to help ensure the prospective tenant is qualified and prepare a complete application on behalf of the applicant. Just make sure your agent speaks with the landlord or their management company about their application requirements before they start marketing the apartment.
Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.
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