Can I Cut My Lease With a Landlord Short?

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A lease agreement will usually stipulate the penalty for breaking a lease.
A lease agreement will usually stipulate the penalty for breaking a lease. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Breaking a rental lease can have serious consequences and can cost a significant amount of money. Before breaking a lease, it is important to be aware of the laws in your state and know exactly what it will take to break your lease with the least negative impact to yourself and your landlord.

State Laws

Each state has laws that govern the rentals. Landlords are required to comply with the laws of your state. Check the laws in your state regarding rentals (see Resources). Read the laws carefully to determine what situations will allow you to end your lease. Breaking your lease will usually require a good cause, and simply wanting to move just to move is usually not sufficient reason to break a lease without penalty.

Read Your Lease

Read your lease carefully, and look for any outs. Check to see if the lease is in violation of the laws of your state. Perhaps the lease states you will forfeit your deposit on early termination of lease, but your state law does not allow this. The lease may specify reasons the landlord will allow you to end the lease. Make sure you review the penalties for ending the lease. Some states do not allow a landlord to charge you once he has found a replacement tenant. This means if you have 12 months left on your lease, but the landlord finds a new renter after only one month, he cannot charge you once he has found a new tenant. However, he can charge you for the month the space was unoccupied.

Sublease

Subleasing can be a viable option when ending a lease if your current lease does not prohibit it. Subleasing is when you find a tenant who is willing to lease the space from you. You are still ultimately responsible for any rent payments your subleasing tenant misses and any damage he may cause, so choose a tenant wisely if you decide to go this route.

Pay

Leases can be ended if you are willing to pay whatever fees and penalties are allowed by law. The amount you have to pay will vary widely based on the amount of your monthly rent, the notice stipulated by your lease and state laws, the time the space stays vacant and other factors. It is possible you will lose any security deposit you placed on the rental.

Communicate

One of the most important things you can do is communicate with your landlord. Explain your situation and be very respectful. Your landlord has the ability to end your lease without penalty if he chooses. Taking off without notice and leaving him hanging increases the chances that he will come after you and enforce all rights he has by law.

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