How Do I Break My Lease?
Whether it’s an unexpected job change, a loss in the family, or a dangerous living situation, you might find yourself having to break a lease one day. This isn’t always as straightforward and simple as paying a one-time fee. If your landlord is understanding, they might be kind and spare you from penalties that can come with breaking your lease. Keep in mind that even if you have an emergency, you can still be penalized in the form of legal action by your landlord, a bad mark on your credit, or by having to pay the remaining rent regardless.
Read Your Lease
In every lease, there is typically a clause that states what you need to do in the event that you decide to break your lease. Some landlords require only a month’s rent and the loss of your security deposit, others require more. It is a good idea to read your lease in full prior to moving into an apartment so that you can avoid any surprises should you find yourself needing to move out early. Landlords often require that there be one- or two-months’ notice before leaving, of course, this would be impossible in an emergency so you would have to speak to your landlord in that case. They may also require that you find someone else to occupy the space before you can leave.
Have the Conversation
It is a good idea to set up a time to speak with your landlord as soon as you know you need to move. Be as upfront about your situation as you can be so that you can both hopefully come to a resolution that suits you both. If you need to break your lease due to a loss in the family, your landlord might be willing to bend their terms in this case. However, while a landlord might be sympathetic, you should prepare to adhere to the terms laid out in the lease that you signed with no exceptions. Also, make sure you get any agreements in writing. After your talk, simply send an email over to your landlord detailing what was discussed and ask them to confirm.
Find Someone to Take Over
While this isn’t true in all states, many do require the landlord and the tenant to locate someone new to live in the unit. This is referred to as mitigating the damages. You can either choose to sublet or re-rent out the space. Subletting means having someone take over your specific lease; it would be under your name for the remainder of the term. This means that if a subletter damages the property or skips out on rent, the liability falls on you. You will not be refunded your deposit until the original lease is over. A deposit is the landlord’s protection in case anything goes wrong during your lease, and a sublet is still your lease, even though someone else is paying the rent. If your landlord decides to rent out the property again, the new tenant would have their own lease and pay a security deposit as well. The landlord would need to take the time to show the unit to interested parties. If neither of you can locate a replacement, it is possible that you will need to cover the rent during the time that the unit is empty.
Know When to Seek Legal Help
If you find yourself living in a unit that is not suitable or safe and you can provide proof, it is a good idea to reach out to a lawyer. They can help you explore your options and educate you on the laws in your state. According to most state laws, a landlord must maintain a property that is inhabitable. This means that there needs to be running water, repairs must be taken care of in a timely manner, all common areas on the property must be sanitary, there must be designated trash bins, and the property must be in line with all health and safety codes in your state. Put your requests in writing. If the landlord fails to fix issues and your unit is not livable, you might have grounds to legally terminate your agreement. You can also issue a complaint to your department of public health and they can reach out to the landlord on your behalf. Other reasons that you may have grounds to vacate early include, being active duty military, if your landlord has been illegally entering into your property by failing to provide notice, or if you are a victim of domestic violence and must leave for your safety.