Realty Bites

I'm moving out and my landlord asked me to sign a release form. What's the deal?

  • If you are breaking a lease you may be asked to sign a release form
  • Ask to have personal injury claims exempted from the agreement
By Austin Havens-Bowen | October 20, 2022 - 12:30PM

When breaking a lease, it’s common for a landlord to ask you to sign a release. Being asked to sign one when your lease is ending is rare. You need to be careful you don't sign your rights away. 

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Question:

I’m moving out of my apartment and the management company asked me to sign a release form. It states that I agree to move out on time and once my security deposit is returned, I waive my right to file any claims against the management company. Is it ok to sign this?

Answer:

If you’re breaking a lease in New York City, it’s common for a landlord to ask you to sign a release form. But in your case, you’re being asked to sign a release at the end of your lease term, which is rare. You are not obligated to sign if you’re moving out on time. 

Signing a release form for a rental apartment

When you break your lease, your landlord might ask you to sign a release form that states you are releasing them from any potential claims, says Sam Himmelstein, partner at Himmelstein McConnell Gribben & Joseph (a Brick sponsor). The idea is that they are releasing you from the terms of your lease so you’re releasing them from legal claims, he says.

When your lease ends and you are moving out, or you’re a month-to-month tenant who is moving out, a release is not required, says Steven Kirkpatrick, partner at Romer Debbas. 


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Either way, you need to be careful not to sign your rights away in case there are problems in the apartment, Kirkpatrick says.

This can be an issue in a couple of situations. For example if the apartment had lead paint and a child who lived in the apartment got sick months after moving out, you might want to file a claim against the landlord, Kirkpatrick says. The same holds true if there was mold in the apartment and you get sick months later. 

For this reason, if you are breaking a lease and are signing a release, ask for personal injury claims to be exempt from the agreement, Himmelstein says.

And if you are in litigation with your landlord or management company, you should not sign this form either.

Will I lose my security deposit if I don’t sign? 

Your landlord cannot use your security deposit as a bargaining chip. It would be illegal for your landlord to withhold your deposit if you don’t sign the agreement, Himmelstein says.

Thanks to changes to the rent laws, you are supposed to get your security deposit within two weeks of moving out of the apartment. And if your landlord keeps any of the deposit for damages, they are required to send you an itemized statement for those charges. (Didn't get your security deposit back on time or with the right amount? Brick readers have had success filing this rent security complaint form with the office of Attorney General Leticia James.)

You also cannot end up in court for not signing the agreement. Your best bet is to remind your landlord of your rights and move out on time.

 

Austin Havens-Bowen

Staff Writer

Staff writer Austin Havens-Bowen covers the rental market and answers renters' questions in a column called Realty Bites. He previously reported on 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. 

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