You've been at your dream apartment for years. But all of a sudden, your job situation has changed, and you have to move closer to work.
The problem is, you just re-signed your lease, and you don't want to absorb the crazy high fee that comes with breaking it. Depending on your lease, you may have to pay for each month you're not there.
One solution: An apartment lease transfer.
An apartment lease transfer is a situation where another person takes over your lease after getting approval from your landlord.
You'll be in charge of finding a responsible tenant to take over your lease and pay the remaining rent directly to your landlord. But the best part of this arrangement is that you won't be responsible for the new tenant's behavior.
So, how can you get started with your lease transfer?
First, you need to read your lease and see what your restrictions are. You need to know where you stand and what your options are before reaching out to your landlord.
For example, are you allowed to do an apartment lease transfer, and if you are, what are the fees and costs? You may be required to pay an upfront transfer fee, plus, in some instances, lose your security deposit or last month's rent payment.
Read carefully if your apartment lease has one of the following clauses about breaking your lease.
When you decide to break your lease, the responsible tenant clause says that you're accountable for the rent since you're on the lease, but only until you line up the next resident. This clause is the best-case scenario for a full-lease transfer, as once the new tenant signs the lease, your responsibility ends as the ink dries on the dotted line.
While this scenario still allows you to break your lease, it's not very lease transfer-friendly. This clause requires the tenant to pay a buy-out fee to get out of their lease, plus sometimes, up to an extra month of rent. This payment essentially breaks the lease and allows the landlord to start over. There's no lease transfer or subletting available.
Your landlord could've used a generic lease, and there's no clause in case you need to break your lease or do a lease transfer. This can be either a good or bad thing. Your landlord may be OK with a 30-day heads up and let you out of the lease with no fees or headaches. Of course, always terminate the lease in writing to protect yourself.
Or your landlord could charge you the full amount left on the lease. State laws can come in handy if there are protections available in your area.
Your relationship with your landlord will come in handy here — all those on-time payments and quick replies. Even if your lease has a strict clause on no apartment lease transfers, it's worth bringing it up with your landlord.
Come into the conversation with a reliable, financially-stable tenant with good references to take your place, an open mind to negotiate on fees and the paperwork needed to transfer the lease once approved. Bring a few possible tenant ideas, with references and work histories, and, if financially feasible, offer to pay the background check on the chosen one.
Once approved, get it in writing — type up a quick agreement, and you both can sign it.
Also, bring an assignment of residential lease agreement with you for your landlord to review. It will show them that you're serious about this transfer and doing your due diligence.
This agreement, if approved by the landlord, will be signed by you, the landlord and the new tenant. You'll need both written agreements to protect yourself as a former tenant. It's highly recommended to get them both notarized to avoid disputes at a later time.
Regardless of your landlord's approval, don't count on getting your security deposit right away. Unless the landlord agrees to give it to you early, usually, you have to wait until the end of the lease (yes, the lease you transferred). So, be sure to deep clean the unit and take photos to make sure you get that deposit back.
You had a constructive conversation with your landlord, but no dice on the lease takeover. Pitch him subletting instead to avoid the high costs of breaking a lease if allowed by the lease. Subletting is not the same as a lease takeover, however.
Subletting is where you find someone to pay your apartment's rent, but your name is still on the lease. This is a last-ditch effort, as it comes with the stress of keeping up if the new tenant paid the rent or not. And if they didn't, you're on the hook for an unexpected rent payment. Some people open up their apartments to home-sharing apps like Airbnb, but it also requires prior landlord approval.
Proceed carefully with subletting as it could affect your credit score, and your security deposit may disappear if they trash the unit and leave you with the bill.
Once everything is set in stone (and in writing) with your landlord, set a moving date with the new tenant. It's nice to share the quirks of the apartment, the utilities they're responsible for and any advice with dealing with the landlord.
Now that the responsibility of the apartment lands on the tenant's shoulders, thanks to the apartment lease transfer, you can rest easy as you pack up and get going to your new dream apartment.