5 Tips to Breaking your Apartment Lease

Most landlords will not be happy if you attempt to break your apartment lease. In fact, the vast majority will say "no" if you ask. In order to break the lease, you will need to be prepared to work hard for a resolution.

#1 Review your Contract

Your contract includes all of the important details about your legal obligation to stay in the property. You may find out your lease is actually month-to-month, meaning you have to notify your landlord 15 or 30 days ahead and then can move out. On the other hand, you may find you have a legally binding agreement to remain in the property. Without reviewing the contract, many tenants will simply accept a landlord's "no" answer to breaking the agreement.

#2 Look for Violations

The contract will give you insight into the landlord's stated responsibilities, while you are a tenant. If any of these have been violated, you may have grounds to break the lease. However, it is important you have documentation of the violations. Whenever your landlord violates a lease, send a written response to the violation and save a hard copy for yourself. These can then be used when you are going to break your lease. Examples of violations include unfulfilled repair promises or safety violations such as exposed electrical wiring.

#3 Know your Rights

You can research the rights of a tenant on your state's website. There, you will find resources directing you to the actual laws that govern tenant’s rights. These laws often state how long lease contracts can be enforced for. You may find your lease contract is not actually enforceable by law. You may also find you have other options to consider for breaking your lease, such as a hardship provision if you have lost your job.

#4 Sublet your Apartment

Even if you cannot legally force your landlord to release you from your lease obligation, you may be able to make an attractive offer that will permit you to do so. One option is to offer to sublet your lease to another person. In this situation, you will actually retain the obligation to ensure rent is paid each month for the remainder of your lease. You will also continue to be responsible for damages to the apartment. However, you can make an independent arrangement with another person who would like to live in your space. In some cases, your agreement can make this person legally liable if payments are missed or other problems occur.

#5 Offer a Lease Takeover

If you cannot legally sublet, you may still be able to allow another person to live in the apartment and make the payments. This person can take over your lease. Basically, you are promising to replace the rental income immediately for the landlord. Most landlords will accept this offer because they are more concerned with a potential loss of income than they are with who actually occupies the space. Immediately replacing yourself in the apartment means the landlord will not have to spend the time and money to advertise the rental, interview applicants and show the apartment.

How do you break a lease over personal safety concerns?

If you feel your apartment or other rented home does not offer safe living conditions, you may be able to legally break a lease on that residence. The qualifications for safety hazards are specifically designated in most building codes. For example, exposed asbestos, black mold or an infestation of bats may all be reasons to legally break your lease. Start by determining whether the safety hazard is actually illegal in your city. Then, document the hazard through photographs. Show your landlord the photos and a copy of the building code pointing out the illegal hazard. If you are not immediately allowed to break your lease, file a complaint with the city.

If I lose my income, can I break my lease?

Many renters ask, "If I lose my job, can I break my lease?" Whether you can legally break the agreement depends on the terms of the agreement, however. Only some leases provide for termination in the event of an unwilling job loss. Others will bind you to the contract despite the fact you can no longer pay. If you believe your job is at risk, either due to your industry or the economic climate, ask the landlord to place a termination of employment clause in your lease. With this clause in place, you can break your lease if you lose your job.

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