I have lived in a rent-stabilized apartment in Queens for the past 14 years. With just over one calendar month left on my lease, I will not be renewing as I have decided to relocate out of state.All of my belongings have already been removed from the apartment and it is now completely empty. I have asked the landlord about the procedures for ending the lease and returning the keys. I was told that I must pay the final month of the lease and return the keys by the end of that month.Since they already have a security deposit from me, I would like to know if I am truly obligated to pay the final month's rent since I am already out of the apartment and the landlord can proceed with renting it out (at market value) all that much sooner. Seems like a win-win for both of us. If I do not pay the final month's rent, what are the possible consequences? -Larry

Whether or not the apartment is occupied, your lease stipulates that you pay rent every month for the term of the lease. Now, an easy solution might be to call the landlord and tell him to just apply the security deposit towards your last month's rent rather than refunding it (assuming the security deposit reflects your current rent and that you haven't inflicted any damage on the apartment). [Keep in mind, also, that if you live in a building with six or more units, 14 years worth of interest is piled on top of whatever security deposit you paid initially.] If you just leave without paying the last month, the landlord will usurp the security deposit anyway as unpaid rent.

If you don't pay the last month, it's possible that the landlord will bring you to court for nonpayment, but we're pretty sure that, if you talk it over with the landlord, you should be able to work something out, especially given that a) there's only one month left on the lease, and b) you've been in a rent stabilized apartment for 14 years; the landlord is probably excited for the opportunity to charge higher rent for the space.

Also, many landlords want first and last month's rent upfront. Are you sure you haven't already paid that?

Good luck!

Related: Ask Gothamist on breaking a lease.