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New Law Allows Termination of Lease After Death

On November 17, 2023, New York Governor Hochul signed a law that allows residential leases to be terminated upon the death of the tenant. Until now, the estate of the deceased tenant remained liable to the landlord for the entire remaining term of the lease. The stated intention of the law is to protect the financial interests of both landlords and tenants and also to allow rental units to get back on the market more quickly. The law takes effect 90 days after November 17.

A new Section 236-a has been added to the New York Real Property Law. This section allows the executor, administrator, or other representative of the estate to terminate the decedent’s residential lease by sending the landlord written notice of the tenant’s death. The notice of death must be sent by registered or certified mail; a return receipt is requested. Termination of the lease takes effect when notice is given and when the residence is surrendered. Surrender typically means that the premises are vacant and broom clean, and the keys are returned to the landlord.

If there is more than one tenant on the lease, or guarantors, the notice of death must be accompanied by the written consent of all the co-tenants and guarantors.

The estate will remain liable to the landlord for any unpaid rent or other debt that accrued prior to the effective date of termination and for damage done to the rented premises.

The law applies to premises leased for residential use, or use which is partly residential and partly professional. It does not apply for commercial, industrial, agricultural, or other uses. It also does not apply to proprietary leases used in conjunction with cooperative apartments.

This is not to be considered legal advice.  You should contact an attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Gary M. Schuster is a partner at J&G Law.  He concentrates in business and non-profit law.
He can be reached at 845-764-9656 and by email.

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