Ask an Expert

My building says I can't move out because the elevator is broken. Can they do that?

By Alanna Schubach  | March 1, 2021 - 9:30AM

You can try to work with the condo board to schedule an off-hours move. 


I'm a tenant renting from a condo owner and I want to move out when my lease ends in mid-March. But the building is not allowing me to schedule a move because one of the elevators needs to be repaired, which is going to take at least a month, and they want the service elevator, which is normally used for moves, to be available for residents. Can the building bar me from moving out because they can't get an elevator fixed on time?

Yes, your condo board does have the power to dictate when you move out, our experts say. 

"Under the business judgment rule, a condominium board has very broad authority and latitude to manage the operations of its building in the manner that the board members feel most appropriate, as long as they made the decision in good faith," says Aaron Shmulewitz, an attorney with Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman. "Managing moves in and out of a building when elevator availability is limited is a prototypical example of such an operational decision, when a board needs to weigh one set of competing interests against another."

The "business judgment rule" is a legal framework, which states that as long as co-op and condo boards establish rules for their buildings in good faith and in the best interests of shareholders, courts will not interfere (although residents might fund these rules unfair and inconvenient).

"If the elevator legitimately needs to be repaired and it broke in the normal course of things, people have to live with those disruptions," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and FYI, a Brick sponsor). 

Of course, this doesn't help you deal with the problem of not being able to move out before your lease is up—and you be stuck with having to pay rent on two apartments at the same time. Consider whether there are alternate ways of getting your belongings out of the building.

"It’s important to keep in mind that this decision is not preventing you from moving elsewhere, but only temporarily preventing use of the building’s elevators to transport your furniture and other large items," Shmulewitz says. 

You may be able to find a moving company willing to use the stairs to move you out. You may also want to try negotiating with the condo board or the owner of the unit you are renting from. 

"You could try to make some constructive suggestions to the board, and see if you can move later in the evening and give notice to the other residents in the building that you'll be using the elevator," Himmelstein says. You could also try negotiating with the unit owner on rent until you are able to move out, he suggests.

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Alanna Schubach

Contributing writer

Contributing editor Alanna Schubach has over a decade of experience as a New York City-based freelance journalist.

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