Know Before You Rent

How to Legally Break Your Lease?

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How to Legally Break Your Lease?

You need to break your lease. Whether the reasons are because of a new job, or because your landlord is a nightmare, thinking about breaking a lease can bring major anxiety. You need to go but are you going to get stiffed your rent for the rest of the year? Knowing if you can break your lease legally may mean the difference between moving to a beautiful new apartment, or moving to the poorhouse.

If you have to continue to pay your rent at the old place there’s almost no way you can manage, we know. Thinking about breaking your lease can be scary. We all know they are legally binding documents. Beyond killing your bank account, could leaving early murder your credit and rental history too?

Not if you know how to break your lease legally. And good news, there are definitely ways you can legally leave early. We’ve put together a list of helpful hints. We’ll get you moving to your next place in style.

Review Your Lease

So the unexpected happened. The first order of business it to study the terms of your lease. If you are in a month-to-month agreement, or there are other early exit clauses in your lease, your worries are over. Not every lease is year-long, and not every lease is iron-clad. There are a variety of ways to legally break a lease early. Many of them may be before you in black and white when you study your lease. And even if there isn’t an early exit clause or a shorter duration than you’d expected, your lease will provide the keys on what to do next.

Your lease will spell out what you’re responsible for, as well as what your landlord needs to do. Your landlord may be negligent in providing a healthy living environment. Knowing your lease will let you know what to do. But before you proceed with talking to your landlord or pursuing legal action it’s important to also get clear on your reasons for leaving.

Get Clear on The Reasons You’re Leaving

Once you understand your lease the next step is to understand the reasons you may need to break your lease.

Is your reason because:

  • You found a better apartment
  • You’re getting married
  • You have a new job in another state
  • Your job is transferring you to another state
  • Your apartment is in ill repair
  • Pests and bugs keep coming back
  • Your landlord never fixed the furnace
  • It isn’t safe
  • Or, you just feel like it

Knowing the reasons why you want to break your lease will dictate your strategy for moving forward.

Understand Your State and Local Laws

Your lease is solid, you know the reasons you are leaving, and you definitely need to go. While you may be able to find a way to legally break a lease because “you just feel like it,” the process will be a lot different once you understand the rules where you live.

Some states allow for a tenant to terminate a lease because of a new job in another location. But they also allow for termination in the case of negligence.

Understanding how your local laws treat negligence may help you break your lease early


As opposed to the exciting opportunities of a new job, you may be trying to break your lease because of unsuitable living conditions.

Some apartments are in ill repair and poorly maintained by your landlord or management company.

As with other terms that make it legal to break a lease, you should carefully study the state laws where you are a resident.

If there are issues of negligence you will have to document everything. This includes:

  • The nature and frequency of issues
  • When you first reported them to your landlord
  • The reasonable deadline for repairs or corrective issues
  • The issues remaining past deadline

If the negligence has made your dwelling uninhabitable you will be well within your legal rights to break the lease.

If you need to break your lease it helps to know what could indicate negligence. Did your landlord fail to repair your heat immediately in the dead of winter?

Ask yourself:

Did your landlord fail to repair your heat immediately in the dead of winter?

Are there broken windows that have gone unrepaired for months?

Are your kitchen appliances not operable?

There are many indicators of negligence. Study your local laws and your lease to find out more.

But negligence is not the only clause that can make an apartment uninhabitable.

Uninhabitable Conditions Allow You To Break Your Lease

Many tenants don’t realize there are a number of conditions that can make an apartment uninhabitable. Your local laws and the terms of your lease will provide more information to help you break your lease.

Sometimes your landlord’s decision to make alterations to an apartment will make the unit uninhabitable in the eyes of state and local laws. This was the case with a Colorado apartment complex where the landlord split two bedroom apartments into four bedroom units illegally.

Uninhabitable apartments are often no cause of either you or the landlord. A fire in your apartment complex, or shifting natural conditions could be the culprit.

A major storm, or even beach erosion, could cause authorities to declare your apartment uninhabitable. In these cases, your responsibility for the lease will be waived.

If you’re looking to break your lease early it pays to inspect the conditions carefully. Depending on state and local laws, as well as the terms of your lease, there are a variety of conditions that can make an apartment uninhabitable.

Dangerous Conditions

They include dangerous life, health, and safety conditions. As long as you are not responsible for causing the issues, they may allow you to break your lease.

Dangerous safety issues range from local criminal activity to poor lighting and broken stairs. Take a look around your apartment complex and the property your landlord is responsible for.

Inspecting the parking area, common areas, fences, exterior lights, windows, doors, gates, fences, and grounds may reveal hazardous conditions.

While you do need to give your landlord reasonable amount of time to remedy the issues, they may lead to an early termination.

As with negligence, uninhabitable conditions will terminate a lease.

But make sure to document everything. You may even want to take photos.

Document Everything

Whether you are planning to leave due to a new job or negligence on the part of your landlord be sure to document your correspondence. This will give you a paper trail to use later on if need be.

You May Want to Talk With Your Landlord

In cases where negligence or uninhabitable conditions aren’t present, it never hurts to talk to your landlord about your situation.

Just as with reviewing your lease, you may find the stress is unnecessary.

Your landlord may simply allow you to end your lease early.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Sub-let or Sub-lease

If you have to move maybe you don’t want to cancel your lease after all. Depending on the terms of your lease, and the nature of the rental market in your area, you may stand to make a bundle by subletting your apartment.

Usually, your landlord will need to agree to the terms, but subletting is a great option if you need to leave early.

And when none of that works, you may just need to leave early.

Help The Search

When all else fails, and you need to go, a tenant is within their legal right to leave. The good news is you likely won’t be responsible for the remainder of the rent due on your agreement.

In most states, your landlord has to make reasonable efforts to find a new tenant if you break the lease. That way you are not obligated to pay the full amount due.

You can always document your help in reasonable efforts by presenting great proposed tenants with good credit and rental histories.

If your landlord doesn’t make reasonable efforts to replace you, in most states, you won’t be responsible for the remainder.

And if they do find someone else, you won’t be responsible for paying any more either.

You’ll be putting that old place behind you, legally.

Moving Out and Moving On

Now that you know how to exit the old lease what are you going to do about getting a new one? In today’s real estate market there is fierce competition to find a great apartment at an affordable price.

Landlords want to know they are getting a new tenant with a great credit history. They also want to know you’ve been a great tenant.

We can help, even if you have a bad rental history. And it won’t affect your credit score.

With My Rental History Report, you can be fully prepared for your next great place.

You can take control of your data, fix any issues, and avoid costly disappointments.

Don’t miss out on your next great apartment. Order your personalized My Rental History Report now.