How To Break a Lease or Rental Agreement

Use These Tips for Lease Termination

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You have the landlord from hell. The upstairs neighbor has recently purchased a tuba and plays it at all hours. You have rats. Or, you have found the perfect apartment-in another state. Whatever the reason, you need to get out of your lease-ASAP. Be forewarned, it is not that easy and the landlord usually has the law on his or her side. Here's how to break a lease agreement.

  1. First, ask your landlord for some leeway. Breaking a lease doesn't have to end, or even start, in conflict. If you have paid rent on time, kept a clean apartment, and have been cooperative for the duration of the lease your landlord might let you off the hook. If you have a legitimate conflict, for instance, a new job or a great opportunity elsewhere, you may find your landlord to be amenable to you leaving early. Honesty is usually the best policy and you may be surprised with the results.
  2. Choke up the money. If you want to leave your apartment early you can, in most instances-as long as you are willing to pay the landlord for the months you will be skipping out on. Most lease agreements state up front that if you leave early, you'll need to pay a certain amount. Keep an eye out for this when you sign a lease contract.
  3. Sublet to a friend. Find a friend who is in need of a place to stay, and offer them yours. Your name will be on the lease agreement still, so make sure your pal is good for the money. Remember you will still be liable for errant payments as well as damage to the unit. Ask your landlord if this is acceptable before you do it. Find a new tenant. It is a much better idea to get your name off the lease entirely if you have found a person to take your place. Have your landlord draft a new agreement for the substitute to sign. This way you are not liable for any missing payment or damage to the unit.
  4. Stay a little longer. Your lease may indicate that you must give two months notice and get out of your contract. If this is the case, you can plan on staying a little longer in the current apartment.
  5. Find something wrong. Dig out the contract you signed and examine all the stipulations. If your landlord has not provided an amenity that he agreed to (for instance, new laundry, payment for heat and hot water or a new air conditioner), you can site this as a breach of contract and request lease termination and leave. Draft a letter indicating this breach of contract, take any pictures that will qualify your claim and keep all documentation for your records.
    • Rats! If your qualm with the apartment is based on a realistic health concern, you may have just cause to leave. Have a health inspector inspect the premises to see if your apartment does not meet health standards. If it does not meet standards, get documentation of it and proceed under legal counsel.
    • Structural problems. If you think your apartment does not meet building code requirements, notify the building inspector. If the inspector finds a problem you may have a shot at breaking the lease. Always seek legal advice prior to performing any of these actions, as a lawyer will be able to familiarize you with the local regulations.
  6. Join the army. If you really want out of your lease, sign up for the United States Armed forces. By law, you can break a residential lease agreement if you begin employment with the services. The proof is in the release. Get a "Lease Release" form or the equivalent of to prove that your landlord has relieved you of your obligations. If you are able to utilize any of these methods, it is important to have legal counsel as well. Remember that leases are binding, and in most cases, the law is on the side of the landlord. Each state has varying rules pertaining to apartment leases, so do some research and know the law before you act. And more importantly, have another place to stay or rent before you take action.

Landlords should also seek legal counsel before action in the case of a lease termination. Remember, again, laws vary state to state, so do your research before acting. For landlords who want to break a lease follow these guidelines: 

  1. Failure to pay rent. If the tenant has failed to pay rent on time (on date indicated on lease) the landlord can terminate the contract.
  2. Failure to obey terms of lease. If the tenants fail to comply with the terms of the lease (smoking in a non-smoking building, pets in a no-pet apartment), the landlord can break the contract.
  3. Drug use. If the tenant has been found to have engaged in illegal drug use or other illegal activities in the confines of the apartment, the landlord can break the lease.

Getting out of a lease isn't easy. Before you move into the apartment or home, make sure you read the rental agreement forms thoroughly. That way, if something happens in the future, you'll know your rights should you want to break the agreement.

 

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