You got a new job somewhere else, your significant other broke up with you, or maybe your apartment is just falling apart – whatever it is, it’s time to leave your apartment. The only problem is that you have several months left on your lease. In this case, you’ll have to try to get out of your lease without too much trouble or expense. Use the following steps to get out of a lease at the lowest cost to you.
EditReading Your Lease
- Look for an opt-out clause. Find your lease agreement and review it for an opt-out clause that specifies your rights and responsibilities in the event that you decide to break the lease. This agreement may specify a timeline for giving notice of your intent to leave the lease early and may also specify penalties in the form of fines and lost security deposits.
- Look for the words “early release,” “sub-let,” or “re-let” when examining your lease. The exact language may vary between lease agreements.
- Find a replacement renter, if necessary. Some rental agreements require that you find a replacement renter if you break your lease. Others require that your landlord find a replacement renter after you give them notice of leaving the lease. In this case, you would have to pay for the intermediate months before they find a replacement for you, so plan ahead financially if this is the case. This information can be found in your lease agreement.
- Check to see that your landlord is meeting his or her obligations. In most cases, your lease will also specify the required duties of the landlord, including things like responding to complaints and repair requests. If your landlord is not fulfilling their end of the bargain, you may have grounds to break your lease and move out. However, this generally requires taking your landlord to court, which may be more trouble than it’s worth.
- There may be additional landlord obligations not listed in your lease that can be found in your municipal regulations and state laws. Check these sources for more information.
EditTalking to Your Landlord
- Talk to your landlord as soon as possible. Because many lease agreements require advance notice when you leave your lease, it’s best to communicate your intentions to your landlord as early as possible. In other words, let your landlord know as soon as you decide to go through with breaking your lease. This can give the landlord more time to prepare for your departure and may make them more likely to work with you towards an amenable resolution.
- Explain your situation. Before you do anything else, simply try to explain to your landlord what your situation is. It’s likely that they’ve had other tenants get out of leases before and are likely able to offer a few possible solutions. Hopefully, your landlord will be understanding, although there is no guarantee that they will be. This conversation is always easier if you’ve been a good tenant, doing things like paying your rent on time and not causing disturbances in the building.
- Be as open as possible. The more your landlord knows, the more they will be able to help you. For example, be sure to tell them if you are unable to give the required amount of notice.
- Work with your landlord to find a replacement renter. In many states, both you and your landlord are required to work towards finding a replacement renter in the event that you leave your lease early. This replacement can be either a new renter or a sub-letter on your lease. In either case, be prepared to pay your rent for the months until you can find a replacement renter.
- Finding a sub-letter means finding someone willing to take over payments on your current lease and live in your apartment. The lease, however, will still be in your name, so you are liable for payments being made and any damage done to the apartment by the sub-letter.
- Check with your Facebook friends to see if they know anyone looking for an apartment. This is the easiest way to get a sub-letter that you trust.
- Consider a termination agreement. If you are unable or unwilling to find a replacement renter, your lease or landlord may offer you the chance to simply pay your way out of the lease with a termination agreement. In many cases, this will involve paying several months rent after you move out and giving up your security deposit. However, you benefit from being immediately and completely out of your lease obligations.
EditFinding Loopholes in Your Lease
- Check your area’s laws. Every city, state, or region has its own laws. In order to know how you can legally break your lease, take a look at yours. Once you’re familiar with the laws, you can then read deeper into your lease and possibly find a legal reason in your living situation to vacate.#*The remainder of these steps will only work under laws which vary from place to place, and you may end up needing to hire a lawyer. Even then, sometimes the law will not be on your side. Always proceed with caution.
- Check to see if your lease agreement is legally valid. Many landlords use standard-form lease agreements. This can potentially lead to errors that will make the lease agreement legally invalid in your city or state. While this will require hiring a lawyer, the overall costs will likely be cheaper than paying the remainder of your rent.
- Find something in your apartment that is dangerous. Your landlord is required to repair conditions that materially affect the physical health and safety of an ordinary tenant. You have to specify this condition in a notice certified return receipt to the place of which rent is normally paid, and you can’t owe any rent at the time. In most cases, you must give the landlord time to make the repair, and send another written notice before you can take legal action. Examples of these conditions might be:
- Termites or other bug infestations
- Broken smoke detectors
- Severely loose railing on your balcony
- Holes in carpeting that could trip someone
- Security issues (e.g. broken lock, doorknob, or gate)
- You as the tenant (or any of your friends) can’t cause this condition – so don’t take a sledgehammer to your smoke detector.
- Take action if the landlord has violated your right to privacy . If your landlord is violating your privacy rights, that is also grounds for legally breaking a lease. He or she is only allowed on the premises with your knowledge.
EditAvoiding Fines and Penalties
- Negotiate a lease-break agreement. If your lease doesn’t already have a lease-break clause which specifies what you must do in order to break the lease, then you’ll have to work this out with the landlord. This is the best way to get out of a lease because you won’t burn bridges and taint your rental history. Consider some negotiation points:
- Offer up part or all of your security deposit.
- Offer to continue paying rent for 1-2 months after you vacate.
- Volunteer to find the next tenant to sign a new lease (you shoulder the costs of placing ads, costs of any screening, and showing the unit to prospective tenants). Finding a replacement renter can also help you avoid paying extra costs or settlement fees.
- Check your landlord’s “duty to rent.” This may be found in your lease as “the landlord’s duty to mitigate damages.” That means that in the situation where you don’t pay your rent, your landlord can’t just sit back and wait to sue you. They have to make strides to filling your space – and then that money gets taken off your debt. If this is applicable in your area, it may mean you’re only required to pay a month or so’s rent.
- Give adequate and polite notice. If you don’t have a legal reason for leaving (and even if you do), give notice that you will be vacating the premises. And be polite about it – the more mature and respectful you are, the less likely your landlord will decide to be a pain in your side. Written notice 30 days prior to leaving is best.
- Even if your landlord is being difficult, always stay polite. Make sure to communicate via email or in print and keep copies should you need them later. Be honest and thorough, doing everything you can.
- Threats of a lawsuit can constitute retaliation and bad faith in some jurisdictions. If your landlord does this, get it in writing. It’s another point in your favor.
- Know that when you break a lease, the law is generally on the landlord’s side. Unless you have adequate reason to leave, the law will likely not be on your side. Don’t think you can take this to court – it’ll likely just add to your debt. After all, you signed a contract. Even if you’re not there, you made the promise that you would pay that money.
- If you’ve tried to be nice about it and negotiate, consider contacting a mediator. Often these are publicly-funded.
- You may be able to easily get out of your lease if you are called to active-duty military service or if you become seriously injured or ill.
- The above information does not constitute legal advice and we strongly recommend that you seek legal counsel before exploring any of the above methods yourself. Landlord/tenant law is specific to the state in which you live. Seek the advice of an attorney familiar with the landlord tenant law in that state.
- Regardless of how you do it, breaking a lease can negatively impact your credit score, making it harder for you to rent or buy a new property.
- Get Along With Roommates in Your Apartment
- Be Aware of Hidden Costs for a First Time Renter
- Notify a Tenant in Writing of an Increase
- See the Value in the Apartment You’re Renting
- Break a Car Lease
- Get Out of a Lease
EditSources and Citations
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How to Get out of Your Apartment Lease
Source: How To Of The Day