If you move out before the end of the lease without paying the remaining months' rent left on the contract, you have broken the lease and are technically and legally liable to pay the rent through the expiration of the lease. But if a job transfer with your employer beckons, and you weigh the pros and cons of taking the job and having a paycheck versus staying in a rental home without a job to fulfill your financial obligations, you might have no choice or other options than to break your lease. Hopefully, your landlord will be willing to start the new tenant search before you relocate. If you cooperate in providing easy access to the rental, it will help you in the long run.
A rental lease is advantageous to both landlord and tenant. It provides the security of rental income for the homeowner and a guaranteed place to live for the tenant, as long as all clauses of the lease are followed. Although a lease is a binding contract and you can't merely wake up one day and decide to move to a new place, there can be instances when the lease must broken for valid reasons, such as relocating for a new job.
Weigh the Options
Exit Without Financial Repercussions
Check your local housing laws. If you are lucky, you may live in a state where breaking the lease is allowed without penalty. In that case, give your landlord written notice that you are relocating. At least one month's notice is typically required in all states. Ask your landlord if he will put his acceptance of the breach of contract in writing. This can protect you down the road if a disagreement arises.
Forfeit of Deposit or Minimal Loss to You
Your lease might have an early-release clause that lets you exit for valid reasons, such as relocation, with minimal financial loss to you. Some leases stipulate that if the tenant must leave, all he will be liable for is one or two months' rent. The security deposit you gave to the landlord when you took occupancy of the rental may also be used in some states to help mitigate the landlord's loss.
Find a Sub-Tenant
If the landlord holds you financially responsible for the full lease period, you might find a suitable tenant to take over your lease. In some states, the landlord may be required to help mitigate your loss by cooperating with a sub-tenant search. The landlord does not have to accept anyone, however, and he may put the new tenant through the same standard of background and credit check as you went through.
If you are in the military, federal law provides that you may legally break a lease without financial loss. Next time you rent, consider signing a lease with a private homeowner as opposed to a corporation or leasing agent. The private homeowner will typically have more room to negotiate exit penalties and sub-tenants. If the landlord insists on making you financially responsible for the full lease, ask your employer if they have relocation assistance to get you out of your lease.