The apartment or rental property you’ve been living in has worked well for you up to this point. It had enough room, was in a location close to work, and even had some nice extras like paid-for utilities or a dishwasher. But, for one reason or another, it no longer meets your needs and you want to move somewhere else. This may leave you wondering: Can you legally get out of your lease?
The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors.
If you are hoping to legally get out of your lease without paying a penalty, such as forfeiting your security deposit or paying rent until a new renter is found, you may have a more difficult time.
WHAT ARE SOME POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES OF BREAKING A LEASE?
Trying to get out of a lease before it’s up should be avoided if at all possible. Depending on your situation, breaking your lease can lead to some unpleasant financial and personal consequences, including:
- Civil lawsuit: While issues such as illness, job loss, or divorce can cause a major change in your finances, it doesn’t absolve you from your contractual obligation to pay your rent to your landlord. If you break your lease, your landlord can take you to court for breach of contract and, in most cases, will win. You likely will then be ordered to pay off the balance of the lease, putting you under further financial strain.
- Credit judgment: In addition to a court order to pay the balance of your lease, a judge can initiate a credit judgment against you. If you set up a payment plan or pay off the balance of the debt right away, you may be able to avoid a credit judgment. However, once one has been issued against you, it stays on your credit report for 7 years.
- Difficulty renting again: Many landlords request rental references when you apply for a new place, and they also review your credit report. If you have a negative mark, including an eviction, judgment, or a broken lease, it can impact your ability to get another lease.
HOW CAN YOU LEGALLY GET OUT OF YOUR LEASE WITHOUT PENALTY?
While it is best to try to keep your lease if at all possible, even if that means a little longer commute to your new job or dealing with a little less space than you’d like, there are some ways you can legally get out of your lease without the worry of facing consequences.
Some of those situations include:
- Breach of contract: Part of the language in the lease you signed was that the landlord agrees to maintain the property and provide a safe, healthy environment for all tenants. If your landlord has not properly maintained your rental despite your requests to fix those leaky pipes or deal with that scary mold, you may be able to break your lease for breach of contract.
- Early termination clause: Some leases include an early termination clause, which can give you a way out of the lease without penalty. Situations that may qualify for an early termination clause include job loss, medical issues, divorce, or job transfer.
- Forfeit the security deposit: While getting that security deposit check is nice after you’ve left an old apartment, giving up this extra little check in exchange for getting out of your lease early is worth it. Talk with your landlord and offer to give up the security deposit to help maintain the property until another renter moves in.
- Find a short-term renter: If you’ve only got a few months left on your lease, you may be able to find someone to whom you can sublet the property. If subletting isn’t explicitly forbidden in your lease, this can be an easy option to cover your lease until the term is up.
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