Can I Break My Apartment Lease If I Lose My Job?

Last Updated Apr 3, 2009 1:29 PM EDT

Dear Ali: I want to move but I'm concerned about the economy. Can I break my apartment lease if I lose my job and need to run back home to Mom and Dad?

A: Not usually, but now there's a cool new exception -- in an effort to encourage fearful potential tenants, Denver-based Archstone is now allowing New York City-area renters an exit clause if they suddenly become unemployed.

The loophole -- reminiscent of Hyundai's 'Uncertain Times" ad campaign, which promises you can exit your car lease if you lose your job -- applies to a bunch of Archstone buildings, including West Side behemoths like the 627-unit Archstone Clinton.

The guarantee is the sign of both troubles in the NYC-area economy (the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in December) and the softness in the apartment market generally.

Year-over-year (which is the way you have to look at rentals, because students, for instance, show up in the summer and leave in the summer), the price of a one-bedroom studio in a doorman building is down 5.7 percent, according to a report from The Real Estate Group New York, a Manhattan-area brokerage firm.

In actuality, the numbers may be even a little softer because some buildings are doing deals where they're giving out a free month -- or three.

This is in the "normal" end of the market. The "ultraluxury" end is holding up much better. I have had as many showings on our firm's $27,500 triplex rental listing (yes, that's per month -- check out the private pool, at left) as I have on our $1,650 starter studio.

I guess at the super-swanky end, renters feel like they won't ever have to run back to Mom and Dad. Or maybe they do -- but I want to meet those parents.

(Image of swimming pool by David Myles Photography)

  • Alison Rogers

    Since graduating from Harvard summa cum laude, Alison Rogers has been a reporter, an editor, a real-estate agent, a Wall Street desk jockey, a columnist, a failed flipper, and a landlady. A member of the National Association of Realtors, she currently sells and rents luxury co-ops in Manhattan for the Chelsea-based firm DG Neary. (If you've got $27,500 a month, the firm has an apartment for you!) Her book, Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, was called "a valuable guide for rookie buyers" by AOL/Walletpop, "beach-read fun" by the New York Observer, and "witty" by Newsweek.