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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016

    Question What Will Happen if You Break a Lease by Secretly Moving Out

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: NEW YORK (BROOKLYN, 11216)

    tl;dr—what’s it spell when you break your lease by secretly moving out of an intimidation-ridden, probably illegal apartment in Brooklyn.

    My boyfriend and I broke up and are on a year lease. We are also still great friends with each other and still living together and that part is fine—we were planning on staying but now after dealing w landlord and issues we are just ready to move on (literally and figuratively).

    However, we live in a brownstone that is completely open i.e. we don’t have a door of our own—just the front door on the 1st level, no access to basement exits and the doors we close are the doors to the rooms that are open to the central hallway. This is relevant becuase our landlord is super volatile. His daughter lives in the basement level. His son has intimidated us, the landlord flipped when we called Con Ed (who shut off our gas because we had a rusted pipe to our stove), put some weird poison down when we had a mouse, our refrigerator fan stopped working and wasn't fixed for 1 1/2 months, we've gotten angry calls from his wife when we ask basic tenant questions (e.g. we saw a mouse, in this building built in 1899).

    The building is also zoned as A41 (single family dwelling—and we are no single family), violates a bunch of codes e.g. no chain lock, no peep hole, no access to all means of egress, etc. the list goes on.

    We’ve paid our rent early every month (yes, early and every), have 700+ credit scores, and we’re actually quite sweet ~ However, we know that if we were to ask to move out on June 1 right now (the lease is up August 1) that he would def. 1. say no 2. maybe would flip out n get violent (even though market value has sky rocketed in last year, and that we plan on not even bothering to ask for our security deposit back).

    Our plan thusly is to just secretly, ant-style, move our things into our new places slowly but surely and then once we are out write him a letter explaining all the reasons that we took that course of action (reasons listed above re: his negligence and intimidation, code violations) and that he can keep our security deposit of 1 month’s rent to pay for month of June.

    Does this sound… OK? We’ve tried to think of other options but this seems to be the safest/smartest… We basically don't think that he's going to bother coming after us in court for 2 months rent, especially since there are hundreds—thousands—of tenants who'd snatch our apartment up (many of our friends want ot live there, but he won't allow that either).

    What laws are we breaking if we do this? Could he basically only sue us for the remaining amount of rent that would complete the lease, or is there some other nebulous law we're breaking that's v. bad?

    Any advice’d b gr8ly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Behind a Desk

    Default Re: What Will Happen if You Break a Lease by Secretly Moving Out

    If you have already confirmed with the Department of Buildings and certificate of occupancy that yours is an illegal apartment, that's not an issue we need to further address. Please note, however, that according to the New York Courts website, Kings County will allow a landlord to collect rent for an illegal unit if the tenant knew that the unit was illegal at the time the tenant rented the apartment; also, they may allow for the correction of the situation by a landlord, through obtaining a proper certificate of occupancy (if possible for the building) and making the necessary physical changes to the structure.

    If you move without notice and end up being sued, be sure that you have very good documentation of the facts that you intend to rely upon when arguing that the unit was unlawful. Take pictures and video, take the documentation you obtained from the Department of Buildings, bring independent witnesses who can describe the living situation, etc.

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