How To Break a Lease Without Breaking the Law

There are various reasons why you may want to break your lease of your rental. Sometimes, it may be because you have found the home of your dreams and have decided to become a homeowner. Other times, you may be forced to relocate because of your job or other personal reasons making you unable to complete your lease term. Then for some, what you first thought of as a gold mine can actually be a nightmare apartment.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to terminate your lease contract, there are things you can do so you can break your lease without breaking the law.

  • Talk to the landlord. The easiest way to get the ball rolling in your favor is to be upfront with your landlord. Tell him why you need or want to break the lease. Explain your circumstances. Try to negotiate terms that will be amenable to both of you. If you are breaking your lease because you are now buying your own home or because you need to move out of state, the landlord won’t be able to do much about it.

    If you have been renting the place for a while and you know your landlord well, you may be able to appeal to his altruistic nature so you can get your deposit back. Give your landlord enough notice so he can find a new tenant and get any documents prepared.

  • Find a new tenant. Help your landlord by referring other people who may want to take over the lease from you. It is a financial concern to have a vacant apartment, so if you are able to refer a replacement, your landlord may be more amenable to giving you back your deposit and not hassle you for breaking the lease.
  • Sublease the apartment. Your other option is to take care of things yourself and sublet your apartment. If you do this, make sure the person who you sublet the apartment to will be responsible and won’t trash the place. Otherwise, you may be held liable for it since you’re the one signed on the contract.
  • Talk to an attorney or legal aid office. If you want to vacate your apartment because of undesirable neighbors or your place is dump, you may want to take legal action. If you have a long standing complaint about the apartment that the landlord is not addressing, be sure that you have documented your efforts carefully. Suing your way out of a lease is timely and costly so unless you have a lot of money on the line, you may just want to bite the bullet and pay any penalties and leave.
  • Forfeit the deposit. If you must go, be prepared to give up any deposits or advance payments you have put towards the deposit. Most contracts will have a pre-termination clause, so read it carefully.

Contracts are written and signed to protect both the owner and the tenant of the property. Proceed carefully before you sign the dotted line. Read the fine print of your lease agreement so you know what obligations and liabilities are during your stay and if you decide to pre-terminate the lease.


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