Lease Succession or Termination

Subletting or Assigning Leases

Subletting and assignment are methods of transferring the tenant’s legal interest in an apartment to another person. Here are the differences between the two.


To sublet means that the tenant is temporarily leaving the apartment and therefore is transferring less than the entire interest in the apartment. A tenant who subleases an apartment is called the prime tenant and the person temporarily renting the premises is the subtenant.

Tenants in buildings with three or fewer apartments do not have a right to sublet. They can ask the landlord to sublet but the landlord does not have to agree. If the landlord unreasonably withholds their consent to sublet, the tenant’s only remedy is to be let out of their lease after 30 days’ notice to the landlord.

Tenants in buildings with four or more apartments have the right to sublet with the landlord’s advance consent. Any lease provision restricting a tenant’s right to sublease is void as a matter of public policy. If the landlord consents to the sublet, the tenant remains liable to the landlord for the obligations of the lease, including all future rent. If the landlord denies the sublet on reasonable grounds, the tenant cannot sublet, and the landlord is not required to release the tenant from the lease. If the landlord denies the sublet on unreasonable grounds, the tenant may sublet anyway. If a lawsuit results, the tenant may recover court costs and attorney’s fees if a judge rules that the landlord denied the sublet in bad faith (Real Property Law § 226-b(2)).

These steps must be followed by tenants wishing to sublet:

  1. The tenant must send a written request to the landlord by certified mail, return-receipt requested. The request must contain the following information: (a) the length of the sublease; (b) the name, home and business address of the proposed subtenant; (c) the reason for subletting; (d) the tenant’s address during the sublet; (e) the written consent of any co-tenant or guarantor; and (f) a copy of the proposed sublease together with a copy of the tenant’s own lease, if available.
  2. Within ten days of mailing this request, the landlord may ask the tenant for additional information. Any request for additional information may not be unduly burdensome.
  3. Within 30 days of the mailing of the tenant’s sublet request or within 30 days of the landlord’s request for additional information, whichever is later, the landlord must send the tenant a notice of consent, or if consent is denied, the reasons for denial. A landlord’s failure to send this written notice is considered consent to sublet (Real Property Law § 226-b(2)).

Additional requirements limited to rent stabilized tenants:

  • The rent charged to the subtenant cannot exceed the stabilized rent, plus a 10% surcharge payable to the tenant for a furnished sublet. Additionally, the stabilized rent payable to the owner, effective for the duration of the sublet only, may be increased by a “sublet allowance” which is set by the Rent Guidelines Board. A subtenant who is overcharged may file a complaint with DHCR or may sue the prime tenant in court to recover any overcharge plus interest, attorneys’ fees, and treble damages where applicable (9 NYCRR § 2525.6(e));
  • The prime tenant must establish that the apartment has been maintained as a primary residence at all times and must demonstrate intent to reoccupy it at the end of the sublet; and
  • The prime tenant, not the subtenant, retains the rights to a renewal lease and any rights resulting from a co-op conversion. The term of a sublease may extend beyond the term of the prime tenant’s lease. The tenant may not sublet for more than two years within any four year period (Real Property Law § 226-b; 9 NYCRR § 2525.6). Frequent or prolonged periods of subletting may be grounds for a landlord to seek possession of rent stabilized premises on the basis of non-primary residence (9NYCRR § 2520.6(u)).

Assign a Lease 

To assign means that the tenant is transferring the entire interest in the apartment lease to someone else and permanently vacating the premises. The right to assign the lease is much more restricted than the right to sublet. A sublet or assignment which does not comply with the law may be grounds for eviction.

A tenant may not assign the lease without the landlord’s written consent. The landlord may withhold consent without cause. If the landlord reasonably refuses consent, the tenant cannot assign and is not entitled to be released from the lease. If the landlord unreasonably refuses consent, the tenant is entitled to be released from the lease within 30 days from the date the request was given to the landlord (Real Property Law § 226-b(1)).

Apartment Sharing 

It is unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of an apartment to the named tenant in the lease or to that tenant and immediate family. When the lease names only one tenant, that tenant may share the apartment with immediate family, one additional occupant, and the occupant’s dependent children provided the tenant or the tenant’s spouse occupies the premises as their primary residence. When the lease names more than one tenant, these tenants may share their apartment with immediate family; and, if one of the tenants named in the lease moves out, that tenant may be replaced with another occupant and the dependent children of the occupant. At least one of the tenants named in the lease or that tenant’s spouse must occupy the shared apartment as a primary residence.

A tenant must inform the landlord of the name of any occupant within 30 days of the occupant moving into the apartment or 30 days of a landlord’s request for this information. If the tenant named in the lease moves out, the remaining occupant has no right to continue in occupancy without the landlord’s express consent.

Landlords may limit the total number of people living in an apartment to comply with legal overcrowding standards (Real Property Law § 235-f).

Lease Succession Rights 

Family members living in an apartment not covered by rent control, rent stabilization, or other housing governed by a regulatory agreement generally have no right to succeed a tenant who dies or permanently vacates the premises. The rights of a family member living in a rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment to succeed a tenant of record who dies or permanently vacates are covered by DHCR regulations. Under these regulations, a “family member” is defined as husband, wife, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law of the tenant; or any other person residing with the tenant in the apartment as primary resident who can prove emotional and financial commitment and interdependence with the tenant (9 NYCRR § 2520.6(o)(2)).

Minimum Residency — A family member would succeed to the rights of the tenant of record upon the tenant’s permanent departure or death, provided the family member lived with such a primary resident either

(1) not less than two years (one year in the case of senior citizens and persons living with a disability persons), or 

(2) from the commencement of the tenancy or the relationship, if the tenancy or relationship was less than two years— or one year, in the case of senior citizens and tenants living with a disability (9 NYCRR § 2523.5).

The minimum residency requirements will not be considered interrupted by any period during which the “family member” temporarily relocates because he or she is engaged in active military service, is enrolled as a full-time student, is not living in the residence because of a court order, is temporarily relocated for employment, is hospitalized; or other reasonable grounds.

To ensure that the landlord is aware of all persons residing in the apartment who may be entitled to succession rights or protection from eviction, a tenant may wish to submit a notice listing all additional occupants to the landlord (9 NYCRR § 2523.5(b)(2)). The landlord may request from the tenant, but not more than once in any twelve month period, the names of all persons residing in the apartment.

Remaining family members living in government-financed housing (such as a public development, an apartment owned by the local municipality, or in an apartment where the prime tenant had Section 8 Rental Assistance) and where the named tenant of record has died or moved out, may also have the right to succeed to that tenant’s lease and/or rent subsidy. Family members seeking succession rights in these circumstances must check the applicable federal and municipal regulations and the local public housing authority rules to determine if they meet the eligibility requirements. Under federal regulations, persons alleging they are remaining family members of a tenant are entitled to a grievance hearing before eviction if they can make a plausible claim to such status.

Lease Termination 

If you leave your apartment or other rental home before your lease ends, your landlord must make a good-faith effort to fill the vacancy. If the landlord finds a new tenant and the new tenant’s rent is equal or higher to your rent, your lease is considered terminated and you are no longer liable for the rent.

Senior Citizen or Individuals Living with a Disability Lease Termination

Tenants or their spouses or dependents living with them who are 62 or older, or who will turn 62 during the term of their leases, or who are living with a disability as defined in Executive Law 292 (21); are entitled to terminate their leases if:

  • They are certified by a physician as being no longer able, for medical reasons, to live independently and will move to the residence of a family member; or
  • They relocate to an adult care facility, a residential health care facility, subsidized low- or moderate-income housing, or other housing for seniors or persons living with a disability. Real Property Law §227-a(1).

When given notice of the tenant’s intention to move into one of the above facilities, the landlord must release the tenant from liability to pay rent for the balance of the lease and adjust any payments made in advance.

Written notice must include:

  • Termination date: The law says, the termination date must be effective no earlier than thirty days after the date on which the next rental payment is due (after the notice is delivered). The notice is considered delivered five days after mailing. For example: if the notice to the landlord is mailed on April 5, the notice is deemed received April 10. Since the next rental payment (after April 10) is due May 1, the earliest lease termination date will be effective June 1;
  • A physician’s certification that the person is no longer able to live independently for medical reasons; and
  • For senior citizens breaking a lease, the notice must be accompanied by a notarized statement from a family member stating both that the senior is related and will be moving into his or her residence for at least six months if admission is pending with documentation of pending admission, or admission to one of the above mentioned facilities (Real Property Law § 227-a(2)(a).  

For individuals living with a disability, the notice does not have to be additionally accompanied by a notarized family member statement. (Real Property Law § 227-a(2)(b).

Anyone who interferes with the tenant’s or the tenant’s spouse’s removal of personal effects, clothing, furniture, or other personal property from the premises to be vacated will be guilty of a misdemeanor (Real Property Law § 227-a(3)).

Owners or lessors of a facility of a unit into which a senior citizen or person living with a disability is entitled to move after terminating a lease must advise such tenant in the admission application form of the tenant’s rights under the law (Real Property Law §227-a(3-a)).

In all rent controlled apartments and in rent stabilized apartments outside of New York City, a senior citizen may not be evicted for purposes of owner occupancy. In New York City, a landlord may evict a senior citizen for this purpose only if the tenant is provided with an equivalent or superior apartment at the same or lower rent in a nearby area. (9 NYCRR § 2524.4;9 NYCRR § 2504.4; NYC Admin. Code § 26408(b)(1)).

Military Personnel Lease Terminations

Individuals entering active duty in the military may terminate a residential lease if:

  • The lease was executed by the service member before entering active duty; and
  • The leased premises have been occupied by the member or the member’s dependents.

Any such lease may be terminated by written notice delivered to the landlord at any time following the beginning of military service. Termination of a lease requiring monthly payments is not effective until 30 days after the first date on which the next rent is due (NY Military Law § 310).

Victims of Domestic Violence Lease Terminations 

A tenant or a member of the tenant’s household who is a victim of domestic violence and reasonably fears potential further domestic violence by remaining in their apartment can terminate the lease by sending a notice to the landlord that they are leaving. The notice must be sent at least 30 days before the tenant intends to leave and must state that the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household has experienced domestic violence and reasonably believes the tenant, or the member of the tenant’s household, is unable to safely remain in apartment as a result of the domestic violence. Within 25 days of sending the notice, the tenant must provide documents that the tenant or household member is a victim of domestic violence. Documents can include an order of protection, a complaint to law enforcement about domestic violence, a record from a health care provider of treatment related to domestic violence, or written verification from a qualified third party that the tenant or household member reported domestic violence. The landlord must keep all documentation and information about the domestic violence confidential and an intentional violation would expose the landlord to penalties and a damage award. The tenant must leave the apartment free and clear of any occupants, unless there are other persons on the lease, in which case those tenants have the options to remain. (Real Property Law § 227-c).


A tenant with a lease is protected from eviction during the lease period so long as the tenant does not violate any substantial provision of the lease or any local housing laws or codes. For both regulated and unregulated apartments, landlords must give formal notice of their intention to obtain legal possession of the apartment.

A tenant should never ignore legal papers; an eviction notice can still be sent if a tenant did not appear in court to answer court papers (petition) sent by the landlord.

Allowable Reasons for Eviction Despite Having a Lease 

Unless the tenant vacates the premises by a specified date after notice from the landlord, the landlord may commence eviction proceedings through: (a) a summary non-payment court proceeding to evict a tenant who fails to pay the agreed rent when due and to recover outstanding rent; or (b) a summary holdover proceeding for eviction if a tenant significantly violates a substantial obligation under the lease (such as using the premises for illegal purposes, or committing or permitting a nuisance) or stays beyond the lease term without permission. (Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law (RPAPL § 711)).

Landlords of rent regulated apartments may be required to seek approval from DHCR before commencing a court proceeding for possession, for example, if the owner seeks to demolish the building. If a tenant fails to pay rent, is causing a nuisance, damages the apartment or building, or commits other wrongful acts, the owner may proceed directly in court.

Your landlord cannot bring you to court for non-payment of rent unless they have given you a 14-day written “rent demand.”

Tenant Protections During Eviction 

A tenant can be legally evicted only after the landlord has brought a court proceeding and has obtained a judgment of possession; and only a sheriff, marshal, or constable can carry out a court ordered warrant to evict a tenant. 

Landlords may not take the law into their own hands and evict a tenant by use of force or unlawful means. For example, a landlord cannot use threats of violence, remove a tenant’s possessions, lock the tenant out of the apartment, or willfully discontinue essential services such as water or heat. 

When a tenant is evicted the landlord must give the tenant a reasonable amount of time to remove all belongings. The landlord may not retain the tenant’s personal belongings or furniture (RPAPL §749; Real Property Law § 235).

Until you are evicted (i.e. the sheriff or marshal executes a warrant of eviction), you can have your non-payment case dismissed if you pay all rent that is owed. 

In a non-payment case, you can only be evicted for not paying your rent. You cannot be evicted for non-payment of other fees (such as late fees, legal fees, or any other “added” fee).

If you lose a housing case and the judge orders your eviction, you can ask the court for up to one year to move if you can show that you cannot find a similar apartment in the same neighborhood. It is up to the judge’s discretion. The judge will take into account your health conditions, whether you have children enrolled in school, the hardship on the landlord if you remain, and any other life circumstances that could affect your ability to move. You may be required to continue to pay rent for the months you remain.

New laws strengthen protections for tenants against retaliatory evictions and increase penalties for landlords who illegally lock tenants out of their homes.

A tenant evicted from an apartment in a forcible or unlawful manner can recover triple damages in a legal action against the landlord. Landlords who use illegal methods to force a tenant to move are also subject to both criminal and civil penalties. Further, the tenant may be entitled to be restored to occupancy (RPAPL  768; RPAPL § 853; NYC Admin. Code § 26-523, § 26-521).

Additional rules apply in certain situations concerning evictions. In New York City, a landlord may not evict a tenant in a rent stabilized apartment for purposes of owner occupancy if the tenant or the spouse of the tenant is a senior citizen, is living with a disability, or has been a tenant in an apartment for 15 years or more, unless the landlord provides an equivalent or superior apartment at the same or lower rent in a nearby area (NYC Admin Code 26-511(9). In rent controlled apartments statewide and in rent stabilized apartments outside New York City, a landlord may not evict a senior citizen, a person living with a disability, or any person who has been living in the apartment for 15 years or more for purposes of owner occupancy (NYC Admin. Code § 26-408(b) (1)).

Reminder: When facing eviction, it is often a good idea to consult an attorney. There are many free legal service providers across New York State that can represent tenants who qualify for their services. Check The Office of the Attorney General cannot provide direct legal advice.