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Breaking your lease after suffering a disability

It is not often that one can predict when a disability will occur. In fact, a debilitating disease or accident often comes along suddenly, leaving you confused and frustrated as you try to wrap your head around your new reality. One of the factors you may be facing is how to break the lease on your apartment if your illness or injury has made it impossible for you to continue living there.

Are you now wheelchair-bound and unable to take the stairs to your walk-up or reach the cabinets in your kitchen? Does your illness or the illness of a family member mean you will have to move where help is available? Do you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder that makes it impossible to remain in your New York City apartment where traffic and construction noises trigger your condition? Is there a way to break the lease without breaking your bank?

Your renter's agreement

In a perfect world, your landlord would willingly release you from your lease and spare you further frustration. However, the laws of each state attempt to make it fair for landlords and tenants, and you may be up against a property owner who will fight for his or her rights.

However, what are your rights? First, it is important to read and understand your lease. You may find that it contains provisions for the early termination of the rental agreement and the penalties you will face. In all probability, you will be obligated to pay the remaining rent you agreed to in the lease. Once you understand the lease, make an appointment to speak with your landlord as soon as possible.

Accommodations

Are there any accommodations that would allow you to remain in the apartment? Are those accommodations reasonable enough that your landlord would agree to them? For example, could you stay in your city apartment if you had an emotional support dog to calm your PTSD symptoms despite your landlord's no-pet policy? Would a ramp, handicap parking or safety railings in the bathroom be sufficient for you to safely reside in the unit you rent?

Your landlord must provide basic elements of accessibility, such as strong railings and reserved parking near the door. New York law also requires landlords to allow you to make, at your expense, any reasonable changes to your apartment to accommodate your condition but may stipulate that you return the property to its previous state when you vacate. However, compare the cost of making these adaptations with the cost of buying out the remainder of your lease.

Since each state has its own statutes governing landlords and tenants, you would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney who is knowledgeable in the laws for New York. You may discuss the option of subletting your apartment or seeking the assistance of the Fair Housing NYC to reach an agreeable arrangement with your landlord.

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