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What legal rights do my wife and I have to break our 12-month lease?

Asked by user in New York.

We live in a 4-apartment building. Our lease prohibits smoking. We have been inhaling strange odors since we moved into our apartment.

Answered by Enjuris Editors:

I’m sorry this is happening to you.

New York law prohibits smoking in the common areas of residential buildings with 3 or more units. To report a violation, you can call 3-1-1 or file a report online.

Because your lease prohibits smoking, the tenant who is smoking is in breach of the lease. The best way to deal with this is to:

  1. Find out who is smoking (or where the smoke is coming from), and
  2. Write a letter to your landlord explaining the issue. (If you need help discussing the issue with your landlord, you can contact the New York Peace Institute at 212-577-1740.)

If your landlord fails to resolve the problem, you may need to meet with a lawyer to discuss your legal rights. You may be able to break your lease on the basis that your landlord is failing to provide a safe living space (see NY Real Property Law 235-b). There are, however, certain steps you must take before breaking the lease (including informing your landlord in writing). For this reason, it’s a good idea to meet with an attorney before doing so. If you can’t afford an attorney, consider contacting New York’s legal aid services.

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