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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  JA Mentor
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Is a tenant responsible for payments if they move out before

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Is a tenant responsible for payments if they move out before the lease is over? I just signed a new 12 month apt lease. However, I may have to break this lease. I live in NY. The main reason is due to a chronic illness so I need to be closer to the hospital where they can help me. Due to this illness and other medical issues I'm disabled and need assistance from my family who live in NJ. So I need to move. I read that if u are 65 years old, are sick and need assistance from family members, you are allowed to break the lease. I have several chronic illnesses (3 main ones) including epilepsy and an organ transplant. My dad is 68 years old and he is healthier than me, I'm 41 years old. Also, I got a German Shepherd dog as an assistance/ service dog and I keep getting the looks and comments from neighbors and even the Apt complex Mgmt because a lot of people don't understand that not all big dogs bite or are bad. It really stresses me out and it makes me physically sick. Can these be reasons to break the lease earlier without having to pay for the rest of months left unpaid on the lease? I really need help with the issue. I'm not working, I only get Disability and I really need to be closer to the doctors who are experts. Thank you.


I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear about your situation.

New York law allows a person over the age of 62 to break a lease without penalty if you receive notice that you've been accepted into a senior residential facility after signing the lease, or if you provide notice from a doctor that you can no longer live on your own and need to move in with a family member. NY Real Prop. Laws and Rules, Section 227-a. The landlord cannot charge you rent going forward if you leave under those circumstances. If neither of those circumstances applies, then you'd unfortunately be responsible for rent until a new tenant is found if you were to move out.

In a place with high demand, it's possible the landlord can find a new tenant quickly and won't be out any money. You'd also have the option of finding a new tenant on your own in order to reduce your liability. But the first step would be to talk to your doctor about getting a letter detailing the need for family assistance. If you can get that, you won't have to pay anything after you leave.

If you have any questions or concerns about my response, please reply WITHOUT RATING. It's important that you are 100% satisfied with my courtesy and professionalism. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so I am paid for the time I spend answering questions. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. There is no charge for follow-up questions. Thank you.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Hi Lucy,
So if I get the note from the doctor, then I can break the lease even if I'm not 62 years old? I just want to make sure, these things get complicated. I'll be moving to NJ to my dad's home and I can definitely get the doctors note. Will the landlord keep my deposit or can I still ask for it? Thank u.

I'm sorry, I misread that. I was looking at where you were asking if someone over the age of 65 can break a lease. I'm afraid that statute won't apply if you're only 41. You would be responsible for rent until a new tenant is found - but you can advertise the place yourself to try to find someone faster.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
This is not good. So the landlord will rather see someone really sick, who could die and they just care about the money. Can i take this issue to court? I'm not talking about me being sick for a month or two. I'm disabled for life and could have a rejection to the organ transplant I received at any time. I know you don't create the laws, but landlords don't see this type of situation in a young person? Someone young had to run into an issue like this one before. Pretty unlucky, but there has to be something out there regarding this situation I'm in. Should i get evicted? I can't stay here and take care of myself. Thank u for your help.

The landlord can't MAKE you stay. A person can always break a lease and move. But you were asking about breaking the lease without a penalty, which is not the same thing. You can move. They can't stop you. But they can sue for unpaid rent after you leave.

If you do not have substantial assets and your only income is disability, they will have no way to collect a judgment from you. They can report it on your credit, but they can't force you to give them money you don't have.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
U r right, I'm trying to do this without the penalties, the drama and getting a really negative entry on my credit report. I didn't think I will have to move quick. This is the third lease I signed with them. They always get their money. I paid all the late fees that got added to my acct when I spend weeks in a hospital in NYC. I wish it wasn't so difficult for someone like me.

Me, too. I really am sorry. The thought behind the law is that, since the landlord didn't cause your illness, it's not fair for them to lose money because of it. It's different with senior citizens because the law puts them on notice that they might have to move last minute. I hope you can work something out.

Please rate my answer positively to ensure I get paid for the time I spend answering your questions. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. Thank you.

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
I'm worry about a negative entry on my report, but I will do it just because my health comes first. But, then the landlord will probably go after my husband because he does have a job. He is the one that provides me with the necessary health insurance and decent living. Has anyone else seen the type of case I have in any other state? I just feel it is so wrong. They can keep my month & half deposit, but it seems I will still lose. Feels like I'm being punish for having bad luck and health. So stressful. Perhaps I don't like the answer, but I feel that it has to be a way. Someone had this issue before somewhere in the USA. Some kind of option

I would dearly love to tell you what you want to hear, but it doesn't help you at all if I say "Yes, you can move without penalty" and then you get sued. My job is to tell you the truth, whether you like it or not. That's what customers agree to pay us for - a polite and honest answer.

Your problem is not unique. Many tenants have to move because of medical issues. And they remain liable on the rent until a new tenant is found. Or, they advertise the place themselves and find a new tenant to avoid losing money. I absolutely agree that it's not fair for you to lose money because of your bad luck and health. But, from a legal perspective, it would be even less fair for your landlord to lose money because of your bad health. I hope you can understand that.

Did you have any other questions about this?

Customer: replied 8 days ago.
Hi Lucy,I do understand & I appreciate the knowledge & advice u provided me with. U r right, I rather get bad news that are the correct answer than just stuff I want to hear & is the wrong answer. I know my landlord is gonna take advantage & pretty much get me in trouble. They won't sympathize with my health issues or if I just dropped dead. So I get it, they'll sue me or my husband because I don't have money to pay rent until the end of the lease next year. For them keeping the deposit is not enough. I'll just wait for the punch and bad news. Thx again.

You're welcome.

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