How to Break a Rental Lease Agreement

Replacing tenants minimizes losses for landlords and lease-breaking residents.
Replacing tenants minimizes losses for landlords and lease-breaking residents. (Image: PNC/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Several factors may cause you to want to break a lease and move before you had planned. Marriage, job promotions, job loss, health issues and several other situations may make it unfavorable, if not impossible, to honor your rental lease agreement for its entire duration at your present address. However, lease agreements are legal contracts between you and your landlord. State laws provide guidelines for the terms of breaking a lease agreement, but it's decided between you and the landlord.

Contact your landlord to discuss terms for breaking a lease. A contact phone number will be on our lease agreement. Be honest, humble and reasonable. A private owner acting as a landlord has the freedom to dictate policy on lease agreements, but a property manager or leasing agent is bound by company policy.

Ask the landlord if you can hand off the remaining months on the lease to a new tenant. Offer to advertise the dwelling, keep it clean and show the place to prospective renters. Minimizing the loss your landlord experiences will lower the cost of your penalties for breaking the rental lease agreement. The landlord cannot collect rental fines for any month that another tenant is paying rent.

Pay the penalties outlined in state lease law and the rental agreement contract. In most cases you must forfeit the damage deposit. Some states make tenants pay the monthly rent for the entire duration of the signed lease. Other states limit this fine to a specific number of months.

Clean the home thoroughly and repair any damage not covered under the normal wear and tear clause of the contract. Have the landlord or agent walk through the home with you and sign a document stating there are no damages you are responsible for repairing before you leave. Surrender all keys, garage door openers or parking passes.

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