You can ask for anything you wnat and hope for the best. However, by paying the rent and keeping the keys they landlord has a claim that you rented the apartment for another month.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.
Dear can I ask for rent back?
You could "ask" but it is not likely that the landlord would voluntarily give up a month that you paid and that you also owed.
Moving out is not determined by the fact that your property is removed, but whether the landlord was returned to legal possession of the apartment. As long as you retained the keys, you continued in legal possession; the landlord could not legally walk in and or place another tenant in the space, as you held on to the keys.
New York law does not require that a tenant and a landlord arrange for a final "walk through" on the occasion of the tenant moving out, although that makes good sense, and reduces the awful number of false claims for damage claimed by the landlord or of no damage as claimed by a tenant. New York law lets a landlord and tenant to figure this out on your own. If you decided to hold onto the keys to let the landlord inspect, perhaps you could claim you were duped into paying the rent, but as you stated, you allowed for the automatic rent payment to continue. And holding on to the keys would likely provide the landlord with a legal basis to claim the month you paid by mistake.
The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.
You also mentioned that you had a month-to-month tenancy. In order to properly terminate a month-to-month tenancy, you must provide WRITTEN of termination one full term in advance (i.e. 30 days - if your rent is due on the first of the month, then the notice term runs from the first). Otherwise, you run the risk that the landlord would claim you did not terminate the tenancy and thus, are still responsible for the rent (we have seen this happen many times).