However, circumstances in life, such as job loss, job transfer, illness or family emergency, can put you in a situation that requires you to move and break your lease.
It's important for you to do your research and understand your legal obligation when you break a lease early. Depending on where you live, the laws may vary.
Landlords and property managers should be willing to work with you in the case of an important life event, but only if you act appropriately and have the proper documentation to support your decision. Also, depending on what the reason is, you may be able to terminate your lease early without penalty. If you're wondering how to break a lease on your apartment or rental home, use the following tips.
Breaking a lease is not ideal, but sometimes unavoidable. Much of what happens when you break a lease is up to you and how you handle the situation. Life happens, and you have to roll with the punches. If you do have to break your lease, do it with your reputation intact.
Brace yourself, as breaking a lease might be expensive. You will most likely need to pay a penalty, which can be as high as two months' rent plus your security deposit. All of these details should be outlined in your rental agreement.
For example, if you don't give the proper 30 or 60-day notice before you leave, you may be required to pay the entire remaining months' worth of rent (assuming the landlord can't find a suitable replacement tenant).
Many leases have a buyout clause that allows residents to exit a lease agreement early. A lease buyout lets you shorten the term of your lease for a fee. The fee essentially replaces the need for you to have to pay for the entire term of the lease. You'll most likely still need to submit a notice to vacate at least 30 days (sometimes 60) before you intend to leave.
There's no law requiring a buyout clause so if your lease doesn't have one, you and your landlord may agree to terminate the agreement in writing.
It's a good idea to bring appropriate documentation when you're discussing this with your landlord or property manager. If a family member is sick, for example, you could bring hospital statements and explain you'll be the primary caregiver.
Before you move out, make sure you have a plan of action with your landlord about what you're responsible for. Be sure to get this in writing. Offering to help find a new tenant for your apartment could sweeten the deal for your landlord.
Many leases have a few loopholes which may release you for events that are outside your control. If you're wondering how to get out of a lease, there are certain conditions in which you might be able to exit early, including:
These situations are often dictated by state law and by what's included in your lease. For a good example of how these conditions are handled in an actual lease agreement, take a look at the National Apartment Association's sample lease. Regardless of your reasons, make sure you're following all applicable local, state and federal laws before you take action.
The most common qualifying reason to break a lease is medical-related. If you're no longer able to live independently and have to move to a rehab facility or assisted living, you might be able to opt-out of your lease without dire circumstances.
With a proof-of-need letter (from your doctor or court), you might be able to exit your agreement with a release clause in 30 to 60 days. Refer to your lease to find the exact time.
If you're an active member of the military, you can terminate your existing lease without a penalty due to deployment under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
You'll need to send one of the following documents to your property manager or landlord:
Note: If a service member dies while in military service, the spouse can terminate a lease within one year of death.
Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment or stalking are allowed to break their lease without paying a penalty due to personal safety concerns.
In addition to supplying a notice to vacate, the tenant would need to give one of the following pieces of documentation:
The lease would terminate 30 days after submitting a notice to vacate or after the next rent payment is made, whichever comes first.
Your apartment lease is signed by you and your landlord. This means both parties have obligations within this contract. If the landlord does not hold up his or her end of the agreement, you may have cause to break your lease.
Some examples of a landlord not honoring his part of the agreement include:
Each state is different when it comes to lease termination laws. It's important to check with an attorney within your state, to ensure you have legal justification to break your lease or be prepared to pay all required fees and penalties.
You can also find a complete list of landlord-tenant statutes in your area by using this helpful reference guide.
Losing a job can be a devastating blow to your finances. If you've recently lost your job and need to move, but aren't sure how to get out of a lease, this is a good time to talk with your landlord. If things are getting tight due to a job loss, try to come up with a mutually beneficial solution with your property manager.
Some reasonable options could be:
If you find another resident to take your unit, this person must qualify for the apartment and have a steady income and a good credit score. Your landlord will run a credit check, background check and go through the same process when qualifying an applicant. If your job is transferring you, your employer may cover the cost associated with breaking the lease. Check with your Human Resources (HR) team to see if that's an option.
If your landlord reports your rent to the credit bureaus, breaking your lease could be counted as a nonpayment of rent. Your landlord could add the delinquent balance directly to your credit report.
Assuming you don't pay the balance on the remaining months you're skipping out on, it then could go into collections, which would negatively impact your credit.
You're responsible for the funds due until the lease term is up. If you don't pay, the unpaid amount is a serious mark on your credit score. Collection agencies will be hounding you to collect on what's owed.
If, for whatever reason, getting out of your lease is impossible, you may be able to sublet your apartment instead. Doing this keeps your name on the lease but frees you from paying rent each month (assuming your subletter is a responsible tenant).
Subletting may not be allowed in certain apartment communities, so consult your lease or ask your landlord before getting started.
If you need to pick up and move but aren't sure how to get out of a lease, the best thing you can do is talk to your landlord. Usually, they'll give you some options and help you choose the best method for your unique situation. Come prepared with the correct documentation, a willingness to pay extra and any other resources you may need to successfully break your lease.