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Know the Laws: New York

UPDATED April 4, 2016

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If you are a domestic violence victim, moving out of your apartment to a confidential location may be an important part of staying safe.  Under this housing law, if your landlord refuses to let you out of your lease, a judge who gives you an order of protection can terminate your lease without financial penalties to you.

Basic info about the law

back to topIf I am a victim of domestic violence, how can this law protect me?

Under this housing law, if your landlord refuses to let you out of your lease, a judge who gives you an order of protection can terminate your lease without financial penalties to you.

As your first step, you need to approach your landlord and ask if you can be let out of your lease without any penalty based on your situation as a victim of domestic violence who needs to leave to protect his/her safety.  If the landlord refuses, and you are applying for (or already have) an order of protection, you can ask the judge who issued the order of protection to terminate your lease so that you can leave without any penalty.  The landlord and any co-tenants have to be given 10 days notice of the fact that you are applying in court for the judge to let you out of your lease.*

* NY Real Prop § 227-c(1) & (2)(a)

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back to topHow will the judge decide whether or not to terminate my lease?

For a judge to terminate your lease, you must show him/her that:

  • Even though you have an order of protection, there continues to be a substantial risk of physical or emotional harm to you or your child(ren) from the abuser if you stay where you are, and that moving would significantly reduce this risk;
  • You already asked the landlord to let you out of the lease and s/he refused; and
  • You are acting in “good faith,” which basically means that you are being honest about your safety concerns.*
* NY Real Prop § 227-c(2)(b)

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back to topI have roommates who don’t want to move. How will my lease termination affect them?

If you are the only person named as the “tenant” on the lease, your roommates will have to move out when you move out.  However, if your roommates are also listed as tenants on the lease, your roommates will not be affected if a judge decides to terminate your lease.  In that case, the judge can separate your lease from your roommates’ if your roommates want to remain in the same place.  If, however, your roommates also want to get out of the lease, the judge can terminate the leases of all the tenants where you live.*

* NY Real Prop § 227-c(2)(c)(ii)

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back to topMy landlord included a section in my lease saying that I would not try and terminate my lease early. Does this mean a judge won’t terminate my lease?

No.  The law says that tenants can’t give up their rights under this law.  So even if your landlord included a clause in your lease that you cannot apply to the family court judge to end your lease as part of an order of protection, you are not bound by this.  You can still request to get out of your lease early based on this law.*

* NY Real Prop § 227-c(4)

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After the lease termination

back to topIf the judge decides to terminate my lease, what are the next steps?

You must do both of the following:

  1. Pay any rent money that you owe the landlord through the date the judge terminates the lease. You would have to pay the rent when it normally becomes due.  (For example, if today is August 9th and the judge says that your lease will be terminated as of October 15th, you would likely have to pay a full month's rent on September 1st and 15 days' rent on October 1st);
  2. Turn over the apartment to the landlord or owner with no tenants or occupants (except you are NOT responsible to make sure that the abuser has moved out).  Note: If there are other tenants on the lease who want to continue living there, the judge can end your responsibility under the lease without terminating the other tenants’ rights to stay in the apartment.*
* NY Real Prop § 227-c(2)(c)

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back to topHow long after my court date will it take for my lease to be terminated?

The judge’s order will give the date that your lease will actually be terminated.  It will be between 30 days and 150 days after the next rent payment is due once the landlord is notified of the order.*

* NY Real Prop § 227-c(2)(d)

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