Last Updated on January 16, 2022 by
Apartment leases are meant to protect both the landlord and tenant during the duration of the lease. Sometimes as a tenant, you might need to break your lease either by choice or necessity. The best way to get out of a lease without penalties is to give notice as per the agreement or communicate with the landlord or property manager.
As a tenant, you have the right to break the lease when you no longer want to live in an apartment. However, breaking a lease might come with penalties which may be very expensive, especially if you don’t have a valid reason for breaking the lease. Before breaking your lease, make sure you are okay with the potential consequences. This article takes you through everything you need to know before breaking your lease agreement. We also have some tips to help you get out of a lease without penalties, including information on when you can break the lease early and not incur penalties. Keep reading!
Top Ten Tips For Breaking A Lease Without Penalty
Breaking the lease early might have negative consequences, including hefty fines and a bad credit report. You need to understand the context of your lease agreement, your rights, and your responsibilities as a tenant. It is important to know how to protect yourself from all the repercussions before getting out of the lease agreement. Below are some tips that will come in handy when breaking a lease early:
1. Go Through Your Apartment Lease Or Rental Agreement
Reading your lease agreement should be your first step when considering breaking the lease agreement. The lease will often have a section that details how to break it, such as the opt-out clause. This section will help you understand what the landlord expects of you, how many months’ notice you need to provide, what fees you will be subjected to when you break the lease, and whether you can find a replacement renter. Understanding your lease agreement will help you weigh your options and find the best way to get out of the lease.
2. Understand The Penalties
Landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state, and sometimes you may be allowed to break a lease without penalties. If your reason for breaking the lease isn’t outlined in law, the landlord might impose a penalty that might be a percentage of your rent. Failure to pay this penalty may cause you to face a lawsuit, forfeit your security deposit or have a bad credit report. The consequences are dire, but you could avoid those penalties when you know your state laws.
3. Talk To Your Landlord
If your reason for breaking the lease is understandable but not legally covered, consider talking to your landlord or property manager. Your landlord is human, and they may understand your situation and offer to help you find a solution. If your situation makes it difficult to afford rent, your landlord will be motivated to find a new tenant to avoid missing payments. Ensure that you keep the conversation polite and respectful no matter what happens.
4. Help Find A New Renter
Depending on your state laws, you and your landlord need to find a replacement renter to mitigate damages if you move out early. Finding a new tenant will lessen the rent you owe. You can find a new tenant either by re-renting or subletting.
For subletting, you need to find someone willing to take over your agreement as a month-to-month lease. You won’t get your security deposit back until the end of your original contract for this type of arrangement. You will also be legally responsible for the apartment if the new tenant fails to pay rent or damages the property.
On the other hand, re-renting allows you to find a new tenant who signs a new lease agreement and pays their security deposit. The landlord will list your apartment for re-renting and show it to interested renters.
5. Consider The Termination Offer On Your Lease
Sometimes, you may not find a new renter by the time you are moving out. You will need to leave an apartment other times immediately, so what do you do in such an instance? Go through the termination clause on your lease and see if you can manage. Most times, breaking the lease will require you to forfeit the security deposit or pay two months’ rent. If you have a good relationship with your landlord, talk to them and see if they can return the security deposit or reduce the fees involved.
You should be ready to pay lease penalties or rent if you go this route. As much as the situation is hard for you, your landlord is also a financial burden because that rent is part of their income. In most states, you will have to pay rent until the end of the lease term if the landlord doesn’t find another tenant. If they find a renter, but they can’t charge them as much as they charged you, you will have to pay the difference.
6. Seek Legal Advice
Why do you need to break your lease agreement? If you feel like you are paying too much for rent or your apartment isn’t livable, or the landlord invades your privacy, you need to seek legal advice. You may find that your situation allows you to break the lease without incurring any penalties.
There are some circumstances where tenants can get out of an apartment lease early without any consequences. They include
1. The Landlord Doesn’t Maintain The Apartment
Your landlord has an obligation to maintain safe and habitable housing. If they fail to maintain the property making it hard to live there, a tenant has a right to vacate before the lease ends. The problem in question has to be severe such as a consistent lack of running water. You should also document the issue and any communication with the landlord. If possible, get a licensed building inspector to verify that the apartment is unlivable. In case your landlord sues you for unpaid rent, these documents will come in handy as proof in court. You might also get a refund on the rent you paid after the apartment became inhabitable.
2. If You Are On Active Duty In The Military
If you are on active duty in the military, you have a legal excuse for breaking a lease. If you need to relocate due to a change of station, you can break your lease early. Service members can give only 30-days’ notice before the move-out date with proof of official orders.
3. If You Live In An Illegal Apartment
There are apartments considered illegal in most states, such as basement apartments. If you find out that the apartment you live in is deemed illegal, you have a right to move out before the lease ends.
4. Renter Is A Victim Of Domestic Violence
if you’ve been a victim of assault or domestic violence, you can write a notice of the intent to vacate to your landlord. You need to provide notice at least 30 days before you move out and show proof of domestic violence. Proof of domestic violence may be a police report or order of protection. If granted, tenants should pay rent up to when they vacate.
5. The Landlord Enters The Property Illegally
Your landlord is required to give at least 24 hours’ notice before they enter the property. Landlords will enter your property when showing it to prospective tenants, making repairs, or inspecting the property. If your landlord enters your apartment repeatedly without notice, you can obtain a court order telling them to stop. If they don’t stop, you have legal grounds to break the lease. This way, you won’t have to pay any penalties, and your landlord is obliged to give back your security deposit.
6. If You Have A Health Emergency
Another instance where you can break your lease agreement is if you have an unforeseen medical condition requiring rehab. If you have a severe injury or disease that makes it impossible for you to live alone, you can provide a letter from the doctor to your landlord and terminate the lease early. Some landlords will require at least 30 days’ notice before you vacate, while others will allow you to move immediately. Most times, the lease agreement will have a clause that details what you need to do in such scenarios.
When breaking your lease early, it is wise to prepare for the worst possible outcome while still optimistic. Know your rights and responsibilities to avoid paying hefty penalties or losing your deposit. It would help if you were informed that getting out of the lease early will negatively impact your credit score, which will make it harder for you to rent new property in the future. Be respectful when dealing with your landlord or property manager because sometimes they will be lenient and let you terminate the lease early. If you follow our tips, you can be sure that things will work in your favour.