Best of Brick

What happens if your lease is up during the coronavirus pandemic? [UPDATED]

Because of the pandemic, you may need to extend your lease or even break it early. 


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For New Yorkers who intended to move out of an apartment in the coming months, those plans are likely up in the air now. The fast-evolving situation of the Covid-19 pandemic means move-ins are being scrapped in many buildings as boards and management companies try to slow the spread of the virus and New Yorkers are told to stay home. 

If you've lined up another apartment or were planning to move, you may have to negotiate with both your current and future landlord to either extend your lease or break it early as the city faces the possibility of shelter-in-place rules. [Update: New York State is now on PAUSE (Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone) and all non-essential businesses statewide have been closed. Moving companies have been told they are part of essential transport infrastructure and can continue to operate. Check with your building to see if they are allowing residents to continue with moves during the pandemic.]

[Editor's note: This article was originally published in March 2020. We are presenting it again here as part of our summer Best of Brick week.]

Month-to-month rental arrangements

One option to consider if you can’t switch apartments within the city: Can you ask for your lease to go month-to-month while you work out what happens next? Adam Frisch, managing principal at Lee & Associates Residential NYC, a real estate company representing small building owners in Manhattan, says you may have a good chance of making this happen.

Laws passed last year that capped the security deposit to one month's rent prompted his firm to put an end to month to month arrangements, however, Frisch says landlords are likely to show some flexibility now. "It would behoove landlords to at least consider month to month for at least one month after expiration, just as a courtesy because there may be some difficult times ahead," he says. 

Pro Tip:

Do you need help renegotiating your lease, getting your lease renewed at a rent you can afford, or terminating your lease early?  The experienced tenants-rights attorneys at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph can advocate on your behalf. Call 212-349-3000 or email to schedule a free 10 minute telephone consultation.

Elizabeth Stone, managing agent at Stone Realty Management, has a relatively low turn-over rate in her building but says she will be flexible and "go to month to month, as best we can, to accommodate the tenants."

Breaking a lease early

Another option is to approach your landlord about breaking your lease. 

Stone says she has been willing to allow some of her tenants to break their leases a couple of months early as a result of the pandemic. "They were planning to leave the city in the next few months and have now found that it would be better to leave immediately."

If buildings haven't yet canceled move-ins, they will become impossible if shelter-in-place rules are issued by the city or state. Arik Lifshitz, CEO of DSA Property Group, a company that owns and operates residential buildings in NYC, says "we all just need to be flexible." He has tenants moving out at the end of the month but will extend leases if residents have trouble finding a moving company.

For their part, moving companies have told Brick Underground they are continuing to operate and taking precautions against the spread of the pandemic.

Some moving companies are actually seeing an increase in the number of calls for quotes. Daniel Norber, president of Imperial Movers says his firm is busier now than a few weeks ago but this is partly due to "an immense amount of students who need to move out immediately from their dorms in NYU or other colleges."

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"Our movers have been working with masks for the customers’ safety as well as their own," says Norber. 

Serik Baimoldayev, CEO of SEKA Moving, says his "trucks and crew members are equipped with gloves, facemasks, shoe covers, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer."

Case by case arrangements

Every building in NYC is different so it may vary depending on whether management companies are permitting showings and move-in and move-outs in their buildings. Baimoldayev says he believes people will still move in NYC, as long as the shelter-in-place order does not go into effect.

"Policies are changing as the situation unfolds," says Shira Rosenhaft, a relocation manager with Halstead Global Services.