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How to Terminate Your Lease

A real estate lease agreement is a binding contract between you and your landlord; therefore, if you need to prematurely terminate your lease, there are legal and financial consequences that you should take into consideration. There are numerous reasons that can be used to terminate a lease, but most of them will not provide you with legal relief from your landlord. Generally, you can terminate your lease for the following reasons with a reasonable expectation of not being penalized:

  • You are deploying on active duty in the military
  • Your apartment or house has serious flaws that make it uninhabitable
  • You have suffered serious health issues

If you need to terminate your lease for other reasons, you need to be prepared for possible legal complications.

Leases Are Often Terminated for Good Reasons

Many leases are terminated for good reasons and not because of ill intent. Such reasons include:

  • a job transfer,
  • moving to better accommodations,
  • loss of a job,
  • a bad roommate, or
  • relief from a meddlesome landlord.

Unfortunately, the law does not provide relief from your contractual responsibility for such reasons. You are still liable for the entirety of the lease and you can be sued in court for the damages. Generally, a landlord is required to make an effort to re-rent the property, but you are still liable for the monthly rent while this occurs. If you don’t fulfill your obligations, you can receive a judgment against you in court or your credit rating can suffer. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these possibilities.

Communicate First with Your Landlord

If you plan on breaking your lease agreement, the first place to start is opening a line of communication between you and your landlord. There are many things you can do to avoid winding up in court or paying more money than you need to, but they all begin with communicating with your landlord. In many instances, it is possible that your landlord might understand and sympathize with your situation and simply let you out of your lease.

This is very possible in areas where the property is desirable and can be easily re-rented. You can also attempt to find a suitable renter for the landlord or agree to pay rent until the property is re-rented. If the property is in a desirable location, this might be an easy way out of your lease with little out of your pocket. If possible, you can assign your lease to another party with the landlord’s approval. It is important to never sub-lease the property to another person because this does not release you from liability, whereas assigning a lease does.

No Response from the Landlord

There are other things you can do such as finding something wrong with your property and bringing it to your landlord’s attention. If they do not respond, you have a case toward terminating your agreement. It is vital to document all correspondence and actions that you and your landlord take during this process to protect yourself should you wind up in court. You can also use all your documentation to persuade the landlord to terminate the lease. This manner of terminating your lease is time consuming, however, and is not for people who need to move quickly.

While breaking your lease is not the best thing to do financially or legally, it is a necessary thing that happens frequently to many people. It is important to understand that if you find yourself in this situation, being honest and communicating up front with your landlord will go a very long way toward avoiding many difficulties that can arise in the future.

How to Create a Letter of Intent to Terminate a Lease

Use our notice of intent to vacate letter template to notify your landlord that you plan to terminate your lease.