Breaking a lease: What consequences are attached to it?

If a renter is breaking a lease, then there can be many potential reasons for doing so- but how much will it cost to break a lease and how to do it?

If you opt to live on rent, you must sign a lease to commit that you would be paying the rent for a specified period of time. A lease is a legal agreement between a landlord and a tenant that binds both parties under a specific law.

A landlord-Tenant Act permits breaking a lease for four reasons which will be discussed later. But before that, you must know how to break a lease legally. If you have to add a roommate, relocate to another city, or are planning to switch places or because of any other reason, breaking a lease early from your agreement needs to be planned legally as it may contain serious penalties.

Possible consequences of breaking a lease

If you’re planning to break a lease, you must inform your landlord first. Keep him aware of the situations you are facing at his place, or the reasons why you want to break the lease at this stage. If your landlord is sympathetic, he will realize your conditions and won’t attempt to penalize you.

If not, you may have to face serious legal ramifications for breaking a lease. Consequences attached to breaking a lease without any proper legal reasons would push you towards paying the rent for the months left in your lease. 

Additionally, your credit report may also get negative remarks if your landlord takes legal action against your actions of breaking a lease early without reasonable grounds.

So, how to get out of a lease and protect yourself from receiving negative remarks altogether? Here’s what you can do.

How to get out of a lease early without a legal remedy

To prevent yourself from legal remedies by your landlord, it is essential to figure out ways with the fewest negative implications on you and your landlord both. To break a lease properly, you need to follow some steps.

The clause that your landlord added in your lease Agreement

When you decide to break your lease, first and foremost read your lease agreement thoroughly. Review it carefully and find out if it has the information about penalties of breaking the lease and how to get out of the lease in certain circumstances.

Look for the terms like relet, sublet, early lease termination, and carefully read them. Sometimes in the lease agreement, you may find a clause that says you need to notify about your intentions one or two months before you intend to vacate the apartment. It may also say that you need to find a new renter in place.

Oftentimes, your agreement would also impose serious fines on immediately vacating a house or breaking a lease in an emergency. It may also come with harsh penalties and you may also lose your security deposit.

Communicate everything

Keeping everything clear from the first day saves you in many critical situations. When you are planning to leave before the leasing date, communicate with your landlord to avoid a touchy situation.

Once you decide, email your building manager or landlord explaining the reasons referencing your agreement. Your manager/landlord may be a businessman but putting everything in detail will clear the mess and the process might proceed effortlessly. 

To remain in the good books of your building manager, try informing him as early as possible. In situations where you aren’t able to pay the required payment for the remaining months, you can offer to find a tenant instead.

Find another tenant to sublet or re-rent

If you are planning to break the lease early, you may need to find a replacement if you are short of money. This will be referred to as ‘mitigating the damages’ after breaking a lease.

You can do this in two ways, by subletting or re-renting. With subletting your landlord and you will find another tenant who agrees on taking over the current agreement. However, they will be having their sublease agreement, but that will remain under your name.

This will make you responsible for any damage they do or even neglect to pay the rent of the apartment during the period of the original lease. If your sublet makes a hole in the wall of the apartment, you won’t be able to receive your security deposit. So before giving your room/apartment to any sublet, you must consider every option.

Another option which is there is, re-rent. It includes the hunt for a new renter who can take the place on rent as a new renter. Your landlord will make a fresh agreement and they will pay for their security deposit on their own.

However, until you sublet or re-rent your apartment, you have to pay the rent for the days your unit remains vacant. It is not your landlord’s priority to find a tenant as you have to leave. There’s so much that a landlord has to see when renting an apartment such as the availability of the tenant’s financial resources, rental history, and credit score.

Therefore, finding a tenant that could replace you can move the process quickly. Most states put the responsibility to find a replacement renter on both the tenant and landlord. However, until you won’t find it, it’s always you who would lose a lot of money, so speeding up the process will save your money eventually. You can use social media posts and ask your family and friends to refer a sublet or new renter to replace you in the lease agreement.

Prepare yourself to pay lease termination penalties

Immediate lease termination may not be as simple as it may sound. It may bring hefty penalties if you are not on good terms with your landlord.

You may be responsible to pay the rent until your landlord finds another tenant if you break a lease early. In states where the landlord is also liable to find a tenant after your leave, you will pay the rent of the vacant unit until the date of your lease agreement ends. If your landlord finds a tenant but is not able to charge the same rent that they charged from you, then you have to pay the difference until the lease term ends.

Look for the local tenant unions

Likewise, workers’ unions work to protect the rights of the workers, and tenant unions help sort out disputes between landlords and tenants. If you’re breaking a lease early and don’t know the state laws or the consequences of breaking a lease early, contacting your local landlord-tenant union would be a better option, to begin with.

Furthermore, unions would also help if you find it hard to contact your landlord for the purpose. Plus, they also talk to your landlord if (depending on your state) your landlord doesn’t put the effort in finding a tenant and relying on receiving rent for you until the term ends. They may come up with a solution that would be beneficial for both ends.

Planning to break a lease early? Put everything in writing

Whatever you communicate with your landlord about breaking a lease, finding a sublet, or paying rent make sure to keep everything in writing. This will help you protect yourself if things get complicated in the future especially if it is related to money.

To make this thing practical, keep your conversation in emails if you cannot meet your landlord in person. If you can, try taking notes when you meet or speak on call. To have their affirmation on the discussed content, just send an email listing down things that you have agreed upon.

Probably, you have gotten an idea of what you can do if you are planning to break a lease. But what could be the potential reasons when the Landlord-tenant act permits to break a lease.

Reasons to break a lease

There can be several legal reasons that can be the grounds of breaking a lease which varies across states. If you break a lease without a legal reason, it may be considered as abandoning tenancy.

According to the Landlord-tenant Act, these legal reasons include:

  • A call from Military service
  • A lease can be broken if a landlord doesn’t fix or repair the unit in the specified timeframe.
  • The landlord or management is involved in sexual harassment, stalking, assault,time or unlawful activities.
  • The tenant was threatened and intimidated by the roommate or the neighbors and the landlord intentionally did not take OR the landlord threatens a tenant with a deadly weapon.

Some other common reasons allowing you to legally terminate the lease involves:

  • Financial Hardship
  • Inhabitable premises
  • Agreement violation by the landlord
  • Domestic violence

Penalties of breaking a lease

Termination of a lease agreement before its end date can be costly especially when you want to move immediately. Legally you are liable to provide compensation for the landlord’s loss.

If you owe a greater amount to your landlord than your security deposit, then there’s also a risk of getting blacklisted in the tenancy database. These databases are managed by private companies and landlords and building management checks them before giving a unit on rent.

You can be blacklisted for one of the reasons such as:

  • You moved without paying the owed amount which is greater than your bond.
  • Your lease was terminated due to some illegal actions that you may have performed.

Furthermore, the consequences of breaking a lease early can make you responsible for the compensation of:

  • Advertising costs
  • Pay rent until the unit gets re-rented or the end of the agreement
  • Renting agent’s fee

Pros and Cons of breaking a lease

Before you pack your stuff to move to a new place for any reason that you may have come across, consider noticing every angle of your move.

Cons of breaking a lease

  1. It may cost you much

As mentioned before, you may have to pay the rental amount till your landlord gets a new renter for the vacant unit. You may also have to pay the rent even if your landlord gets a renter but not charging the same.

In the case of a sublet, you are equally responsible for damages that they make. So, if being out-of-cash is the reason behind breaking a lease early, you mightn’t want to think about it.

  1. Your credit score would be at risk

If you don’t pay the remaining amount you owe to the landlord, they can send your data to the companies maintaining the tenancy database. And this could hurt your credit score. Plus, bad credit can instigate intricacies when you apply for a loan or apply for rent.

  1. Trouble in future renting

Rental companies always look for the experience of the tenant when they refer someone to landlords. Bad credit history might limit your chances of getting a unit at your desired location.

Your history shows your traits and the financial settings with your previous landlords. If you didn’t pay the rent on time, owed money and left the unit, or done damages to the unit – the company may leave your application and consider other applicants.

Pros of breaking a lease early

Yes, there are potential benefits to breaking a lease early.

  1. Chances to get a better apartment

In case your landlord fails to meet the required legal responsibilities, you can break a lease early:

  • If he fails to meet the safety codes
  • Fails to repair the property and conduct maintenance according to agreement
  • Unable to provide you with the necessities such as water, heating, and cooling apparatus
  • Perform illegal acts such as threatening you or entering the apartment without notice
  1. There might be something in the agreement

Before you make a decision to leave your landlord in the middle of the day, it’s better to read your agreement once more – this time, carefully. It may not put you in a financial burden, but to find a sublet or a new renter instead. If you could refer a friend, you can easily get away without putting yourself in financial debt.

Ending notes

Breaking a lease could bring hefty ramifications if not planned carefully. For whatever reason you are breaking a lease, make sure to talk to your landlord and do everything legally. Not following proper steps can bring out lingering financial burdens that may hurt your future decisions as well.

Still, confused? Take legal help and make your life easier.

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