The Cost of Breaking Your Lease

When you sign up to rent an apartment or house, you sign a lease that sets out how much you will pay to live there and for how long. If you need to move out before the time is up, you will need to break your lease. Depending on the paperwork you signed, it could cost you a pretty penny.

Can you do it?

Before you look up what happens when you break a lease, you should do your research to see if you’re even allowed to break it in the first place. Erin Eberlin of The Balance Small Business reports that there are very few reasons you can legally break a lease. They include if you are an active member of the military and you get Change of Station orders, the apartment is unsafe because the landlord doesn’t maintain it, your landlord violates your tenant rights or you find out that the property you’re living in is an illegal rental. Many states have provisions that say you can break your lease if you’re a victim of domestic violence, so you can check to see if those rules apply to you.

Devon Thorsby of U.S. News and World Report says that you might be able to break your lease if you are willing to pay rent until a new tenant is found, or if you find someone willing to sublet the space and fulfill the rest of your lease. These two situations depend on what your lease says and local laws about subletting, so consult a real estate expert before you explore this option.

Unfortunately, this means that you cannot break a lease for many common reasons for moving out of a rented home, like a new job assignment, unemployment or a wish to live somewhere better. That doesn’t always mean you’re out of luck, though.

Check your lease

While the legal reasons you can break a lease are pretty short, you might have more options detailed in your lease. Take out your copy of the lease and look for an early termination clause or opt-out clause. This part of the document details the protocols you can follow to break your lease in a way that satisfies both you and your landlord. Eberlin says that this could include a required notification period, as well as a fee you will pay to break the lease.

Sit down with your landlord

If your lease doesn’t have an opt-out clause and your reason for moving isn’t covered by law, Trulia’s Renter Guides suggests talking with your landlord. It’s possible that they will let you break a lease, especially if you offer to help them find new tenants or make other concessions. Trulia notes that if your reasons for moving are tied to your inability to afford rent, like job loss, they might be more willing to make a deal with you. Finding a new tenant now will save them the headache of coming after you for late payments in the future.

Regardless of whether your lease has an opt-out clause or you can legally break your lease, it’s best if you can communicate clearly with your landlord and explain why you need to move out early. Breaking your lease might not be cheap or easy, but it might save you financial pain down the road.

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