How to Break your Lease Legally

By | May 21, 2016

How to Break your Lease Legally.  There are times when you may have to break your lease.  Circumstances may change, and you may have to move.  If you still have several months on your lease this can become very costly unless you find some loopholes to get you out of your lease agreement.  If you just walk away, your credit will have a negative mark on it for seven years, so what do you do?  When you need to get out of a lease, make sure to read your lease carefully. Your lease will tell you when, and under what situations, you are eligible to break your lease.

There are various situations that will allow you to walk away, without penalty. Here are the usually accepted reasons:

  • Death
  • Fire (not your fault)
  • Violent crime
  • Moving to a nursing home
  • Army Deployment
  • Job relocation

Subleasing is an Option

Some property owners will allow you to find someone to take over your lease, for the remaining months. You can put an ad in the paper, ask around or use Craigslist to post you the opportunity.  For a quick response, it is a good idea to sweeten the pot by offering the apartment for, say $50 less than you are paying or offer one month free.

When you find someone interested in subletting your apartment, they must go through the same screening process and if they were renting an apartment themselves.  That means they have to have employment sufficient to pay the rent, a good credit background and no felonies on their record.

Ask for a down payment.  This will give you an opportunity to find another tenant if your choice does not work out.   Make sure you find a good tenant, or you may end up paying the rent for an apartment where you don’t live.  Don’t sublet to family members!

How to Break your Lease

Paying off your Lease

In most cases, if you don’t have a legitimate reason for breaking your apartment lease, you will be expected to pay the remainder of the rent-owned on the lease.  In some cases, you will be required to pay a percentage of the remaining rent as long as you give two months notices of your intent to vacate. This two month period will give the lesser time to rent the apartment to someone else.

When the Landlord is at Fault

If you desire to break your lease because the apartment, has had several severe problems on the property, and the apartment agent has failed to rectify the problems, you may need to contact a tenants’ rights organization or your legal aid office.

  • Your apartment was broken into and the property owner refused to change the locks
  • you are fearful of your life because of harassment by an insane tenant
  • you have a severe rat and roach problem and the landlord has not sent an exterminator
  • your dwelling has a mold problem and you or someone in your family has asthma or other breathing problems.

If you are having any of these problems, had contacted the owner and asked to have them fixed and you have not received help you may need to contact a lawyer.


If you have had an agreeable relationship with the leasing agent, sometimes they will make exceptions to your situation. So if you are a good tenant, always pay your rent on time or early and have no complaints, you may be in a better position to make a deal.


If you have defaulted on your lease, the property owner will take out a judgment against you. You will have an opportunity to settle your debt before or at the time of your court date. If you have not paid the judgments, this will remain on your credit for seven years.

If in the future you want to settle your debt, contact the collection agent and make an agreement with the collection to pay all or part of the unpaid rent. Most of the time, the property owner will rather get some of the money than none at all.  You may still be able to rent with bad credit.

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