How To Get Out Of An Apartment Lease

Last Updated on August 3, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas

To get out of an apartment lease, review the lease terms for an early termination clause. Negotiate with the landlord or find a suitable replacement tenant. Consult a lawyer if needed, considering legal implications.

Top Ten Tips For Breaking A Lease Without Penalty

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 

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 you can Break An Apartment Lease

While signing a lease often represents a long-term commitment to an apartment or home, certain circumstances can justify breaking it. Understanding these situations can help reduce or avoid penalties wherever possible. Here are scenarios when it may be acceptable to break an apartment lease:

  1. Military Obligations
    • Active-duty military personnel have the right to break a lease without incurring penalties under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act if they receive a sudden deployment or permanent change of station orders.
  2. Health Reasons
    • In certain jurisdictions, tenants can break a lease due to health problems or a disability that the apartment unit cannot accommodate. It’s important to note that the severity of the health condition and local laws play a significant role in this consideration.
  3. Unsafe Living Conditions
    • If a landlord fails to maintain a safe and habitable housing environment, tenants may be justified in breaking a lease. This may involve neglecting repairs, not providing sufficient heat, or not remedying a pest infestation.
  4. Harassment or Privacy Invasion
    • Ongoing harassment from a landlord or other tenants may be a valid reason to break a lease. Similarly, a landlord who fails to respect a tenant’s right to privacy may justify terminating the agreement.
  5. Job Relocation
    • Some leases contain “job transfer clauses” that permit you to break the lease if your job is transferred a certain distance away. However, this is not always a guaranteed exemption.
  6. Domestic Violence
    • Laws in many areas protect victims of domestic violence, allowing them to break their leases without financial repercussions. Legal proof may be needed to apply this clause.
  7. Unit is Illegal
    • If the apartment turns out to be an illegal unit, it is possible to break the lease without penalty.
Reasons to Break a LeaseDescription
Military ObligationsActive-duty relocations
Health ReasonsHealth problems/disabilities
Unsafe Living ConditionsUninhabitable apartment/house
Harassment or Privacy InvasionHarassment by landlord/tenant
Job RelocationJob transferred
Domestic ViolenceVictims of home violence
Unit is IllegalApartment unit is illegal

How much does it cost to break An Apartment Lease?

Breaking an apartment lease can be a costly decision, dependent on several factors. While each lease agreement and jurisdiction can have unique regulations and penalties, the following is an overview of the potential costs that could be incurred:

1. Lost Rent

  • If a tenant breaks their lease, they may be responsible for the remaining rent due under the lease.
  • This amount could be reduced if the landlord is able to re-rent the unit quickly.
  • However, if the unit remains vacant for an extended period, the tenant could end up being responsible for a large sum of money.

2. Marketing Costs

  • A tenant breaking a lease might be held responsible for marketing costs to re-rent the unit.
  • The cost could cover professional photos, online listings, realtor fees, and sometimes even the cost of hosting open houses.

3. Lease Breakage Fee

  • Some leases include an explicit lease breakage fee, often equivalent to two months’ rent.
  • This fee is usually charged regardless of how quickly a new tenant is found.

4. Property Damages

  • Damage to the apartment could lead to higher costs.
  • The security deposit may not cover extensive damage, allowing the landlord to demand further compensation.

5. Legal Expenses

  • If the landlord and tenant end up in a legal dispute over the broken lease, the tenant may be responsible for both parties’ legal fees.
  • This amount can vary widely depending on the circumstances.

6. Considerations for Remaining Utilities

  • Depending on the lease agreement, the tenant who breaks their lease might be held accountable for utility costs until a new tenant moves in.

The following table provides a simplified representation of potential costs

CostTypical Cost
Lost RentRemaining Rent due under the Lease
Marketing CostsDepends on the Area and realtor Fees
Lease Breakage FeeTypically Equivalent to Two Months’ Rent
Property DamagesVaries Based on Damage Extent
Legal ExpensesVaries by Jurisdiction and Lawyer Fees
UtilitiesCost of Utilities until New Lease Begins

What are the legal repercussions of breaking An Apartment lease agreement?

Breaking an apartment lease agreement can lead to legal repercussions, affecting both the landlord and the tenant. Here are some of the legal repercussions that can occur when an apartment lease agreement is broken:

1. Losing the Security Deposit

  • When a tenant breaks the lease agreement, the landlord may have the right to keep the security deposit as a way of recovering the lost rent.

2. Rent Responsibility

  • If a tenant leaves before the end of the agreement, they may still be responsible for the remaining rent balance. This often depends on the lease agreement and the local laws.

3. Lawsuits and Court Disputes

  • Landlords can file a lawsuit against tenants who break the lease without proper reasons. This can lead to legal disputes and court proceedings.

4. Collection Agency Intervention

  • If the tenant fails to pay the agreed-upon amount after breaking the lease, the landlord could involve a collection agency. This can negatively affect the tenant’s credit history.

5. Difficulty Renting in the Future

  • Breaking the lease agreement can seriously impact one’s rental history, making it challenging to rent property in the future.

Final Word

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 favor.