When & How to Break a Lease

Diamonds are forever, apartments are not. So when do you know when it’s time to leave yours and what if it’s time to go before your lease says it is? Though it happens all the time, it can be difficult, stressful, and even require legal help or citation in cases. So how do you know when it’s time to go? And if it is, how do you do it?

Break a Lease

Reasons for leaving include a need to move out of the area for a job or personal needs, the desire to move in with someone else, the inability to keep up with rent, or dissatisfaction with the apartment. But are these acceptable reasons? The answers may depend on your lease agreement, and the state you live in, but the good news is, you should be able to end your lease.

Here are the two main situations that lead to the need and/or desire to break a lease, and how to do it.

1. You need to move (to a new area, in with another person, or simply because you want to.)

If you’re required to move for a job, this step just got a whole lot easier.

  • What to do: Ask your employer for a letter stating your relocation and include it with a letter to your landlord explaining the date you intend to break your lease and the reason why (need to relocate).

  • In most cases the most you’ll be responsible in this instance is for the security deposit or one month’s rent, though you may not owe a thing. The state you live in could dictate what you owe so make sure you check with the local law.

Getting married or family health problems are often easier routes to end a lease as a letter of intent to break the lease for these reasons will often get you off the hook, but what if you want to move because an opening came about at your best friend’s place or – just because?

  • Read your lease and check the terms, chances are you will not recoup your security deposit and may owe one or more month’s rent, prepare for the financial impact

  • Again, your rights will vary by state so make sure you read up on yours.

  • What will help: What it comes down to is money and your landlord needs your spot filled asap in order to avoid losing money. You’ll stand a much better chance at avoiding paying additional months’ rent or getting into a quarrel if you can help your landlord fill the space. My all time favorite apartment was found from a guy breaking his lease; he put the ad up on his own dime and even negotiated my requests on his own dollar as well (new paint in two rooms and a professional floor cleaning). This type of flexibility can mean the difference of filling your spot and moving on, or losing far more dollars on additional months’ rent.

Things to consider: You may be responsible for advertising the vacancy; Be prepared to show your place and show it to sell! Clean it up and stage it for perfection; List the opening as soon as possible and make yourself available for showings, the sooner your fill your spot, the sooner you’ll be free to leave.

2. The other main reason for needing to break a lease is from dissatisfaction with your landlord. This could be from your landlord’s failure to upkeep the place to reasonable expectations, failure to fix and/or clean as the lease states fit or even as is to be plausibly expected, or other reasons such as invasion of privacy or failure to alert you when he/she enters your home.

  • Failure on your landlord’s part to meet his/her end of the bargain either by the lease or in reasonable terms is called constructive eviction

If you feel constructive eviction applies to you, cover your bases:

  • Take adequate notes on dates/times your case is justified

  • Call to complain and log the date/time and person with whom you spoke regarding the situation

  • Write a formal letter stating your case and whenever possible, stating your rights

Do you have experience and/or advice on breaking a lease? If so, please share below.

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