Legal Ways to Break Your Lease Agreement


How can I legally get out of my lease early?

Even if you had the best intentions when you signed your lease, you might find it’s necessary to break your rental agreement. Sometimes, you can explain your situation to your landlord, and he or she won’t penalize you for breaking your lease without legal justification.

It’s not always this easy to get out of your lease, though. Breaking a lease without legal grounds can sometimes lead to consequences that can include paying your remaining rent and being subject to legal action. As a result, you’ll want to know the different ways to legally get out of your lease.

How can you break a lease without paying?

Now that you know you can typically get out of a lease if you essentially pay a penalty, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to do it for free. Often, you can if you “mitigate the damages” of a broken lease by finding a replacement tenant. You can do this by either subletting or re-renting your apartment.

Subletting is when you or your landlord find someone who will take over your lease for the rest of the fixed term. The replacement renter will sign a sublease agreement, but the agreement will still be under your name. You can think of this as a lease transfer. This means you’re still legally responsible for any damage or unpaid monthly rent payments during the tenancy. You also won’t get your security deposit back until the end of the lease term.

What makes a lease null and void?

Another way that you can get out of a lease without paying any money is to have the contract declared null and void. Most of the time, a lease is void if it is fraudulent or signed under duress (being forced to sign a lease).

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1. Understand the potential penalties.

If you don’t have a reason outlined in law, however, you may be allowed to break a lease, but your landlord is also allowed to impose a financial penalty. It could be a percentage of your remaining rent. At most, you could owe the remainder of your rent for the rest of the lease. If you don’t pay it, you could face a lawsuit, a ding on your credit report, and the loss of your security deposit.

2. Check your lease.

Your lease can come in handy in another way, too. There may be an early termination clause that you can point to if your landlord didn’t fulfill their obligations set out in the lease. But this is one to run by a lawyer before taking action on: if your landlord disagrees that they’ve violated the terms of the lease, you could get into an expensive legal squabble.

3. Talk to your landlord about breaking a lease.

Landlords are people, and many of them are understanding. If your reason for needing to break a lease isn’t legally covered, but is understandable, they may be willing to find a solution for you.

4. Offer to help find a new tenant.

It’s in your best interest to help your landlord find a new tenant. Once someone new is in your rental, you’re off the hook for the remaining rent due in your lease. If it’s a hot market, your landlord might be able to rent out your place quickly. If not, they might ask for your help getting the word out or getting the place clean for showings in a hurry. 

5. Consider subletting to avoid breaking a lease.

If you’re not having luck finding someone to sign a new lease, and there are no opt-out clauses in your lease, you still might not be stuck paying the remainder of your rent due in your lease. Consider subletting. You might not be able to find someone to cover your full rent, but even if they pay the typical 70%-80% of your rent, it could save you a lot of money. The lower rent and shorter terms available with subletting might attract more options for you.

6. Read your lease agreement

The lease agreement may indicate that you have to give notice of your intention to vacate the apartment one or two months in advance or that you have to find a replacement renter. Many leases will also have an option for terminating the agreement immediately, but they often come with hefty fees and a loss of your security deposit.

7.Talk to your landlord

Email your landlord and building manager as early as you can in the process. Your landlord is a business person, but they’re human too — so if you’re honest about the situation, they might understand (of course, there’s always a chance they might not). But if you’re a responsible renter and have a good relationship with your landlord, the process of breaking an apartment lease early might go smoothly.

8.Consider lease termination offers

If you’re unable to take the time to find a new renter or you’re in a situation where you need to leave the apartment immediately, consider the termination offer detailed in your lease. Breaking a lease agreement often requires paying two or three months’ rent and forfeiting your security deposit altogether, though every lease will be different.



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