Need a Last Resort? How to Break a Lease

breaking a leaseSometimes Breaking Your Lease is the Last Resort

Breaking an apartment’s lease is never something you want to do casually. A lease is a legal contract, and once it’s signed, breaking a lease puts you at the mercy of any terms, penalties or time limits that the lease contains. You could even be sued for it.

Still, if your apartment’s maintenance is abysmal, or if you have to leave town for family reasons or a job relocation, there’s no alternative to breaking a lease. So what now?

Planning Prevents Lease-Breaking

You should always have good apartment lease questions and a sound idea of your future plans before signing a lease. If you know that you may be accepted to grad school and suddenly forced into the market for Delaware apartments, you should look for a short-duration setup so you won’t end up breaking your current lease on the way out.

If you absolutely can’t find an apartment with a term short enough, look for a situation where breaking a lease won’t break your back. Apartments’ lease terms vary greatly from one landlord to the next; some penalties for breaking a lease are minor and others are catastrophic. For example, it’s not uncommon to be charged most of a month’s rent for breaking a lease – and then still be on the hook for all rent until the landlord finds a new lessee. Breaking a lease with such a clause in a slow rental market could cost you thousands.

Resources to Use When Breaking a Lease

If you’re already on the hook, you’re not alone in your predicament. Do a web search for local tenants’ rights unions, or research your situation at the government’s Housing and Urban Development website. If you’re uncomfortable with the legalese you run into while breaking a lease, hire a lawyer. Lawyers are pricey, but losing a lawsuit over your lease is pricier.

Know the Issues That Can Break a Lease

Every apartment’s lease works both ways, guaranteeing the landlord some things and guaranteeing you others. The latter promises may work in your favor, allowing you to break the lease without penalty. Some possible exit strategies include:

  • Apartment maintenance: If you have a documented history of maintenance negligence, and you’ve given your landlord or apartment management opportunity to fix them to no avail, they are in violation of the lease.
  • Water, heat, and air conditioning: Like apartment maintenance issues, lack of essential utilities can be your exit when you’re forced into breaking a lease.
  • Sublet or find a suitable replacement: Before breaking a lease, check to see if you can find someone to take your place.
  • Wait and pay it off: If you’re near the end of your term, continuing to pay rent may be cheaper than breaking the lease. If you can’t stand the apartment, you can always find a new apartment and live there while the old lease expires.
  • Communicate: If you’ve got a new place lined up and breaking the lease with penalties is the only solution, talk to your apartment manager about the situation. For all you know, your breaking the lease might make it easier for them to do renovations or move in a new long-term tenant. Maybe you can offer to pay a few months’ rent in exchange for not being held liable for any trouble they have filling your vacancy. If you can come to an agreement, though, make sure to get it in writing!

Lease-Breaking: A Disclaimer

Of course, before you go breaking your apartment’s lease, get some legal advice. We’re not lawyers here and this article is just intended to make you aware of some of your options should you be forced into breaking a lease. The law varies from location to location. Be aware of your obligations before you commit to breaking a lease.

Also, be aware that breaking a lease still requires you to give notice of termination. If you break the lease by hightailing it without talking to your apartment manager, and your lease automatically renews, you may find yourself legally responsible for another term.

Lastly, before breaking your apartment’s lease, make sure you have an alternate destination. You’d hate to break your lease only to find yourself without a place to sleep!