(Our attorneys may be able to help you break your lease; we’ll review your lease, discuss the issues with you, and forty percent of the time, a valid reason to break will exist-contact us after reading the information below…)

Under the law of most states there is no right to break a lease for good cause. Often there is a provision for breaking a lease for individuals in active military service who are transferred permanently or temporarily for more than three months. Upon written notice, these tenants’ liability under the lease is often limited to 30 days’ rent. Anyone else who moves during a lease is liable for the rent until the end of the lease or the unit is re-rented, whichever comes first.

Some leases contain provisions that the landlord will agree to terminate the lease if the tenant pays extra rent (such as two months). If the lease ends in two months or less, it may not be wise to use that lease term. If the lease runs longer than two more months, and you think the unit might not be re-rented, then you just have to make a choice between certain loss of two months’ rent or possible liability for even more money. If you live in an apartment complex where there are always vacant apartments, the chance that the landlord will re-rent your apartment before the end of your lease is poor. If your lease does not have an “early termination” clause, but you would be willing to pay one or two months’ rent to get out of the lease, you should see the landlord, explain your situation, and ask if they would agree to terminate the lease early. They may say no, but it could be worth trying.

Three common reasons people want to get out of a lease are:

  • Health problems; for example, you have to climb stairs to enter the apartment, and your doctor has told you you must not climb stairs. If there is a serious medical reason why you need to move, you could ask the landlord for accommodation under the “Fair Housing Act.” If you show the landlord that the only way he or she can accommodate your medical disability is by letting you out of a lease early, the landlord may agree.
  • Another resident of the apartment (or house) has died or moved away and you cannot afford the rent by yourself. If the landlord will not agree to let you out of the lease, you may have little choice. You could ask the landlord if you could sublet the apartment to someone else, or you could try to find someone who would share the apartment and the rent with you. You would need the landlord’s permission for another tenant to move in with you.
  • You were on a waiting list for an apartment with a rent subsidy, and you finally got to the top of the list. When you reach the top of a waiting list for a subsidized apartment, you have a fairly short time to take the opportunity or to go back to the bottom of the list. There is no good choice if the landlord will not let you out of the lease. If you take the rent subsidy and move, the landlord may claim lost rent for the rest of the lease. If the landlord claims lost rent, he or she may keep your security deposit, and also can sue you for unpaid rent. In that case, you should get legal advice about whether you might have any legal defense to the suit, and whether the landlord can collect anything from you even if they get a judgment for the rent.

If you are really intent on moving out WORLDLawDirect or your local lawyer may have some other suggestions.

See also…

Landlord vs Tenant Issues

Real Estate and Property Law