What can I do if my apartment complex said I could break my lease for $2,500 but has now reneged on this?

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What can I do if my apartment complex said I could break my lease for $2,500 but has now reneged on this?

After moving out, they refused payment saying the associate gave me incorrect information and according to my signed lease I was obligated to pay the remaining rent. I lost my job and don’t have the income to pay. Is there any way out?

Asked on January 19, 2016 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If there was a written agreement to this effect, you can enforce it in court, if necessary, or alternately, raise the agreement as a defense if the landlord tries to sue you for more money--you would, under the agreement, only have to pay what the agreement called for. 
If there is only an oral (unwritten agreement), that would not serve to modify (e.g change the termination or end date) of a written lease: a written contract (which is what a lease is: a contract) may only be modified in writing. 
You could alternatately try to rely on the theory of promissory estoppel (that they made you a promise to induce you to do something--e.g. move out--and you did that thing, so now they are obligated to honor it) and/or equitable estoppel (that is is inequitable, or unfair, to let them induce or lead you to move out by saying they would let you out of your lease, then renege on that). These are both valid legal theories, but are not as certain as a claim or defense based on contract, because these theories are more subjective and more subject to a judge's discretion or opinon. Nonetheless, if sued, they provide potential defenses to raise.


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