So, you’re moving out of your apartment before your lease is up. You signed on the dotted line, but circumstances have changed. It won’t be a big deal, right? Think again.
A lease is a legal contract. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you get a new job with an hour-long commute or if your best friend offers you a room in a better apartment with cheaper rent. Sure, these are great reasons to move… but not necessarily great reasons to break a lease early.
Before you pack up your boxes and hit the road, make sure you understand the consequences of breaking a lease early. We’ll help you weigh the risks and benefits when deciding whether to leave your apartment before the end of your lease.
Breaking a Lease Early: The Cons
Con #1: It Might Cost You, Big Time
Your landlord will likely ask you to continue paying rent for the remainder of your lease agreement, regardless of whether you’re living in the apartment. If you choose not to pay, they could take you to court. You’ll need to hire an attorney, and, if the judgment is made in your landlord’s favor, you’ll be on the hook for unpaid apartment fees and penalties, your legal fees, and possibly your landlord’s legal fees. Is your head spinning with dollar signs right now? Breaking the lease can be an incredibly expensive decision.
Con #2: It Could Hurt Your Credit
If you fail to pay the money you owe to your landlord according to the terms of your lease, they might file a report with a credit bureau. They could also have a collection agency come after you. A bad credit score can hurt you when you apply for apartments, auto loans, and credit cards in the future. In other words, you don’t want your credit to take a hit.
Con #3: You Might Have Trouble Renting in the Future
Almost every landlord or rental company will want references from previous landlords to make sure you’ve been a good tenant. They want to hear that your word is good and that you will stick to the lease you sign. If they’re concerned that you won’t pay the full amount you’ve agreed to, they’ll probably move on to another applicant.
Breaking a Lease Early: The Pros
Pro #1: Rent a Better Apartment
If your landlord does one of the following things, there is a chance that you may not be legally responsible for finishing out your lease:
- Fails to follow health and safety codes
- Fails to make repairs or conduct maintenance of the property per the lease agreement and/or after you’ve made the appropriate repair request
- Fails to provide you with heating, cooling, or running water
- Illegally set up or unlawfully enters the apartment without notice
If your landlord is doing something illegal or causing your health, safety, and basic needs to be compromised, we recommend that you report them and consult a lawyer before moving out. Leaving could be the best thing for you in the long run!
Pro #2: There Might Be a Loophole
Before you make any decisions, go back and reread your lease agreement. It might not be as bad as you think to break your lease! There may be a clause that lets you pay a lease-breaking fee, forfeit your deposit, or even find a sublet to fill out the rest of your contract instead of paying the entire amount.
Either Way, Talk to Your Landlord
Talk to your landlord before you do anything, document your conversation, and remember that communication is key. If you have a special circumstance and talk to your landlord about it, you might be surprised to find that they’ll work with you. After all, landlords are people, too! They may also have another renter on a waitlist or let you get by with a small fee. You never know and asking never hurts!
Moving out before your lease is up and not following proper protocol could put you in a sticky legal or financial situation. No matter where you wish to move, ApartmentSearch can help you get there with access to the latest apartment listings across the country.