Inside Stories

I’m breaking my lease, selling my furniture, and moving to Florida because of coronavirus

Austin Havens-Bowen
By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
May 26, 2020 - 10:35AM

They are moving to Florida for cheaper rent, more space, and to be close to family.


In March, Claudia and her fiance, Esteban, were furloughed from their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic—she worked in childcare and he was a bartender. The young couple had been planning on renewing their lease in July for their Kew Gardens rental—but they don’t see a future for themselves in New York City anymore. So they’re selling their furniture and trying to break their lease so they can move to Florida. Here’s their story.

As much as we love our apartment, paying New York City rent for a small space doesn’t make sense for us anymore because it will likely be a while before our jobs come back. It took over a month to get unemployment benefits, and we started to get concerned. So, at the end of April, we decided to start the process of moving to Orlando, Florida. 

Moving to Florida has always been in the back of my mind because my family lives there, but this certainly accelerated those plans. We’re still paying rent every month, but we don’t want to renew our lease with so much uncertainty about our jobs. 

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The lease is up at the end of July, but we want to move as soon as possible so we contacted building management about breaking our lease. Luckily, they were very understanding and said that other tenants in their buildings are also having trouble because of the coronavirus. They offered for us to move early without any fees—if they could start showing the apartment to find a new tenant.

Surprisingly, several people were interested and the broker showed the apartment to several people within a few days. We were there during the viewings, but would move to a different room as they went through the apartment to maintain social distancing—and we all wore face masks. 

It wasn’t long before management called and said one of the couples loved the apartment and were applying to move in. But, a few days ago, we found out that one of them was laid off from their job, so they had to stop the process. Now, we’re back to square one. We could just break our lease, but then we’d be stuck paying a fee.

It’s a real bummer because we already started selling our furniture on Letgo. I was very skeptical about whether people would buy used things in the middle of a pandemic, but things are actually selling pretty fast. There’s not a ton of money coming from it, but the point is to avoid paying the hefty fees to rent a moving truck from here to Florida. The only things we want to take with us are the mattress and TV (both big investments), clothing, and personal items. And, of course, our three cats. 

Coincidentally, we ran into one of our neighbors a couple of nights ago. They asked us if we had a dog, because they were selling a crate. Esteban and I started talking to them and found out that they’re in the same exact position as us: They both lost their jobs and are selling items on Facebook and Craigslist so they can move to California. It’s comforting to know that we aren’t the only ones around who are making big life changes because of the pandemic.

We’re both really going to miss our apartment, especially the balcony, and living in Kew Gardens. We actually envisioned ourselves living here for a few years. Esteban’s mom and sister live nearby, and so do some of our friends. And, there’s great spots like Kew Gardens Cinemas, an indie movie theater, Dani’s House of Pizza, and Forest Park is nearby. 

For now, we’re going to keep selling our things with hopes that management is able to find another tenant to move in. The plan is to move into Esteban’s mom’s apartment to sort everything out and make the move to Florida at the beginning of July. We plan to drive so we can take our cats and belongings, and avoid riding a germ-ridden airplane during a pandemic (and trying to pare our belongings down to two bags each). 

I’m very excited to move to Florida because I will be close to my family, and I already have a job lined up through my sister at an insurance company. In Orange County, where Orlando is located, there’s an assistance program that helps first-time home buyers with down payments and closing costs, so we’re looking forward to eventually owning a house. For Esteban, he’s excited to live in a bigger place and have outdoor space to grow his own food—and we have a puppy waiting for us. As sad as all of this is, we have a lot to look forward to in Florida.


Austin Havens-Bowen

Austin Havens-Bowen


Austin Havens-Bowen is a writer and reporter. He previously covered local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

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