How to Break Your Lease Successfully
Breaking your lease can be scary. Maybe you’ve just landed a dream job across the country or you suddenly need to move back home to help your family. No matter the reason, sometimes you’re faced with the realization that you won’t be able to finish your lease.
If you need out of your lease contract, this is known as breaking a lease. Depending on where you live and the terms of your lease, this can be a complicated or expensive process. There’s a lot that can go wrong if you do end up breaking your lease either by choice or out of necessity. In this guide, we’ll break down how to break your lease successfully so you can avoid the harsher damages.
What does it mean to break your lease?
First, let’s define what it means to break your lease. When you tent a property from a landlord, you sign a lease agreement. This is a legally binding contract that usually includes a period of time you agree to stay in the property.
This is a good deal for both you and your landlord. You get to know that you have somewhere to live for a period of time without worrying about your rent increasing. Meanwhile, your landlord has a source of income and they don’t have to search out new tenants.
However, sometimes you need to break your lease. This means you won’t be staying the full period you originally agreed to, and you’ll be moving to another location. You might break your lease for a number of reasons such as:
- Financial hardship
- Death of a family member
- A breakup or divorce
- New job
The list goes on and on. Unless you’re in a month-to-month lease, you can expect there to be some harsh consequences for failing to stick your lease out until the end of your terms.
What are the consequences of breaking your lease?
When you break your lease, there are a number of consequences you can face. You could experience all of them at once or none of them at all. What you’ll face will depend on your landlord, your lease agreement terms, and also your reason for breaking your lease.
Here are just a few of the potential consequences:
- Your landlord sues for unpaid rent for the remaining duration of your lease
- You lose your security deposit
- Receive a negative mark on your credit report
- You might not be able to find new housing
There are only a few situations where you might be permitted to break your lease without any penalty. This usually includes if you’re called to active-duty military service, your unit is no longer livable beyond your control (like a natural disaster), you’re a victim of domestic violence, you or a tenant face a health crisis, or your landlord has broken the law.
How can you break your lease successfully?
So what do you do if you’re left with no choice but to break your lease? The good news is things usually aren’t as harsh as they might sound.
Your landlord has a legal obligation to mitigate loss. That means they can’t sit idle and rack up charges from you. They need to be actively searching for new tenants. Here’s what you should do to break your lease successfully:
Step 1: Read your rental agreement.
First, check your lease. There might be a section with information about “early release.” You might also be allowed to sublet your space or find someone to take over your lease. There’s also likely information about how you should give notice of your intention to vacate.
Step 2: Talk to your landlord.
Next, talk to your landlord. Communication is key. Be honest about why you’re leaving. Your landlord might be running a business, but they’re also a human being. They might be sympathetic or helpful depending on the situation.
Odds are, if you’ve been a good tenant, they’ll be willing to work with you in some way. Always give as much notice as possible and look for a solution that fits both parties.
Step 3: Find a replacement renter.
Depending on your landlord, you might be allowed one of two options: a subletter or new renters. In the first situation, you can find someone who’s willing to take over your current lease, though it’s still under your name.
In the second option, you’ll find a new tenant for the unit who will sign a new lease. If you know someone looking for housing, this can be a great solution. If you’re not able to find a new renter, realize you might need to pay for the days the unit stays vacant.
Step 4: Come to a termination agreement.
If you’re in a situation where you need to leave quickly or you’re unable to find a new renter, it might be ideal to just come to a termination agreement. You’ll most likely need to pay in some way or form, but it’s likely to be manageable if you’re proactive.
Offering to forfeit your security deposit or a months rent might be enough to get out of your lease successfully. Most landlords just want to make sure they’re not losing money on the property. If you’re able to provide compensation upfront for their loss, they’ll be less likely to take legal action against you. Make sure you get any agreement or payments in writing.
Breaking your lease shouldn’t feel impossible.
Things happen. Sometimes you have to break your lease on short notice or because of something unexpected. As long as you keep lines of communication with your landlord open and know your rights, things should run smoothly.
Breaking a lease can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Start by being proactive about the situation to find a solution for both you and your landlord. You might have to pay a little bit, but you should be out from under your lease in no time.