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Ask Sam: How much notice do I have to give my landlord to leave a rent-stabilized apartment?

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Question:

Dear Sam: I live in a rent-stabilized apartment and am thinking of moving? Legally, how much notice do I have to give my landlord before I move out? My lease says I have to give 60 days notice, but do rent stabilization laws override that?

Answer:

Even in a rent-stabilized apartment you're obligated to fulfill the terms of your lease agreement, but if you want to get out early, you still might have options, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.

"The way rent-stabilization works is that tenants get renewal leases every one or two years," says Himmelstein. "The renewal lease gets offered 90 to 150 days before the lease expires, and the tenants has 60 days in which to respond and say whether they want to renew or are vacating."

"A rent-stabilized tenant just like every other tenant can't legally break their lease and move in the middle of it," he adds. "It's a contract."

It's highly likely that this is the rule the language in your lease about 60 days notice is referring to, but even if there is a clause that lets you leave early if you provide 60 days notice (these are not common), if it's in your lease, you have to abide by it.

"However," says Himmelstein, "on a practical level, if you're paying way below the market rate, the landlord might be thrilled to have you leave in the middle of the lease." In fact, you might even be looking at a potential buyout.

However, if you let your landlord know that you'd like leave early, they will assume that you are on your way out, and this will make the possibility of a buyout less likely.   "So if you're rent-stabilized and paying below market-rate and the landlord could charge a lot more rent if you leave, you should consider at least discussing with a lawyer the possibility of getting a buyout before you approach the landlord," says Himmelstein. (More tips on negotiating the buyout process here.)

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Sam Himmelstein, Esq., represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan.  To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.