Picture moving into an apartment that you love and you have every intention to stay for at least the 12-month (or 24-month) lease that you signed and then life happens.
Suddenly you need to move, perhaps rather quickly, but by breaking your lease you may be subject to a variety of consequences such as civil lawsuits, credit judgments and trouble renting in the future. Fortunately, no matter the reason for your desire to break a rental agreement, you may be able to get out of a lease without those dire consequences. While these methods are far from foolproof, one of them may give you some wiggle room when it comes to your lease agreement, saving you both money and avoiding derogatory marks to your credit and rental histories. To learn more about the ways that you may be able to get out of your lease, review the information that has been provided in the sections below.
If you intend to break your apartment lease, then it is important to be aware of the potential consequences that you might face should these methods fail or should you fail to find a solution with your landlord. Breaking a lease can impact your finances, credit score and rental history for years.
Apartment leases are legal, binding agreements. While not all landlords will do so, your landlord does have the right to submit a civil lawsuit against you in an attempt to recover any back rent payments that you owe, money for repairs or cleaning services to the apartment, and your landlord can even sue you for the rent you would owe for the remaining months of your lease. In most cases, landlords do win these lawsuits, even if you had become unemployed or ill. If you cannot pay the amount granted to the landlord immediately, then the court may issue a judgment against you. It is important to know that judgments will show up on your credit score as they are derogatory marks. This means that a broken lease could haunt your credit score for seven years.
In addition to the financial damage that a broken lease can accrue, you may find it difficult to rent a new apartment for years down the road. Most apartment complexes will require you to submit to a credit check or they may obtain rental references from your previous landlord. If you have evictions, breaches of your rental agreement or a poor payment history, then you may be refused an apartment, be required to pay a higher monthly amount or you may need to submit a larger deposit.
One of the first things that you can check is whether or not your landlord has breached your lease agreement before you have. Landlords have the legal responsibility to provide tenants with a safe and healthy environment, but there are many landlords who do not take these responsibilities seriously. If your requests for repairs or maintenance have gone unanswered over an extended period of time or if there are health hazards inside the apartment such as mold or an insect infestation, then your landlord may have already broken your rental agreement. Failing to keep rental units in good and habitable condition is a breach of contract, allowing you to break a lease without penalty.
However, it is worth knowing that your landlord could still attempt a civil lawsuit against you. In cases such as these, it is vital that you keep the copies of all correspondences between your landlord and yourself. Take pictures of any maintenance or repair issues within the apartment and document incidents when you requested repairs to be done. This level of documentation can be used as evidence in the civil case which can only help you to achieve a verdict in your favor.
Did you read through your rental agreement? If you had skimmed it upon moving in or do not quite remember it, obtain a copy of your agreement from your landlord and review the document in search of an early termination clause. Not all lease agreements have these clauses, but if the lease agreement contains one, it may list reasons that renters can break their lease without penalty. Commonly included clauses are hardship, illness or other financial reasons.
How would you describe your relationship with your landlord? If you have been a pleasant, good tenant that always pays rent on time, then you may be able to simply speak with your landlord about the situation and find out whether he or she would be willing to allow you out of your lease. The sooner that you can speak with your landlord, the better. Explain your situation in as much detail as possible, as this conversation will determine whether or not you can break your rental agreement without the risk of a civil suit. In some cases, you may even be able to negotiate with your landlord. You may be able to offer a payment plan for the remainder of the lease or offer your security deposit in exchange for moving out of the unit without further issues.
While subletting is not always allowed within apartment complexes, some landlords will allow you to find a new tenant who can take over your apartment for the remainder of your lease in exchange for letting you out of your own rental agreement. If your landlord agrees to a sublet, then you will need to find someone who needs short-term housing that would be willing to take over the remainder of your lease. However, it is worth knowing that in a case of a sublet, you are still responsible for the rental if anything should happen to it. The sub-tenant would simply be paying rent and using the apartment unit. After your lease has concluded, most apartment complexes will allow the subletting tenant to sign a lease to keep the apartment for a longer period of time.