Can I Break My Lease if I Can't Afford My Rent?


Lease contracts are contracts that allow a person to rent out an apartment or other property for a set period of time in exchange for a set amount of money. Often, leases will be structured so that tenant must pay on a monthly basis. If a tenant cannot afford to pay the lease after he signs it, this does not constitute a legal reason for breaking the lease.

Lease Contract

Lease contracts are legal documents. A tenant who signs a lease agrees to pay a landlord a set amount of money for the right to occupy a space. The tenant is legally obligated to pay what he agrees to. Although the lease may allow for monthly payment, unless the lease is month-to-month -- meaning the lease is renewed each month and paid one month at a time -- the contract cannot be broken.

Breaking A Lease

If a person does break a lease, he can often be held legally liable for the amount of money that goes unpaid on the lease. This may be true even if the person does not occupy the space during the remaining time left on the lease contract. However, in some states, tenants who break a lease are only liable for paying rent for the period of time that the space that the space remains unrented after they leave.

Lease Modification

Sometimes, in lieu of breaking a lease, a tenant may attempt to modify the terms of the lease. This can be done by speaking with the landlord and modifying the original lease contract with a new document. This modification may allow the person more time to pay what he owes, or may shift the payment structure of the lease so individual payments are smaller.


A person cannot legally break a lease because he can no longer afford it. However, often, landlords will be willing to break a lease early if the person provides the landlord with enough advance notice for him to find a new tenant. Many landlords would prefer to break a lease than to have a tenant default on the payment of a lease.

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  • "Renting: the Essential Guide to Tenants' Rights"; Tessa Shepperson; 2007
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