How to Break an Apartment Lease

Breaking lease is the act of breaking any term of your lease before it expires. Usually, this means that you stopped paying your rent. Your lease a two-way binding contract between you and your landlord. If either one of you breaks it, the lease is rendered null and void. If you break the lease, your landlord has a right to charge you a penalty fee. However, you may be able to reduce the penalty under certain specific conditions.

Who Breaks the Lease

If you want to break the lease, you can either get the process started yourself or stop paying rent and wait until your landlord breaks the lease on his or her end. Starting the process yourself will usually work better for you, since it gives you more legal room to maneuver, allowing you to break the lease on better terms.

Avoiding the Lease Penalty

When you break the lease, you will be faced with a number of consequences. The landlord may charge a penalty fee, your credit rating will drop and you may get bad referrals. However, state and federal law allows you to break the lease without any penalty or further obligation under certain conditions. They include:

  • Seriously damage to the apartment--If your apartment was damaged so badly it's uninhabitable, you can break your lease without consequences. If it was damaged during a natural disaster, all you have to do is show evidence that the disaster occurred. If it occurred due to a human-made disaster or a crime, you must be able to prove that you were not at fault.
  • Call to active military duty--if you are a member of any branch of the US military who was called to active duty after you signed your lease, you don't have to pay the penalty. In several states, state laws allow you to break your lease if you have to relocate within United States because of a military order.
  • Heath issues--if you suffered a health problem that made you unable to live on your own, you can break the lease without consequence. This aspect of lease-breaking is covered under state law, so you should check with your state's attorney general's office before you break your lease.

Breaking the Lease if Landlord is at Fault

If none of the above situations apply to you, your best bet is to try to prove that your landlord failed to honor his or her obligations under the lease. Since your lease is a mutual contract, this will render it void. For example, the landlord may have failed to make repairs to your apartment and/or respond to your complaints, raise rent without proper warning, etc. You must be able to provide proof - photographs of the damage, records of complaints, copies of agreements, etc. If possible, have your lawyer go over the lease to make sure you understand everything correctly.

Once you collected the evidence, present it to the landlord and explain that you want to get out of the lease. In the best-case scenario, the landlord will allow you to break the lease without any objections or penalties. However, it is far more likely that the landlord will try to contest your proof and take you to court. While you may eventually win, the court fees will get larger and larger the longer the case drags on. This is why you may be better off offering a settlement - a compromise solution. For example, you may agree to pay the landlord a portion of the rent you owe for the remainder of your lease term. 

blog comments powered by Disqus