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Tuesday, July 01, 2014
How to Part Peacefully with Your Landlord while Breaking a Lease
If you've been thinking of buying a home, but the prospect of breaking your
apartment lease has you holding back, you might be glad to know there are
options available to you as a renter. A lease isn't always an iron-clad
agreement with all the rights on the side of your landlord. Of course, buying a
home isn't the only reason to break a lease. There are many reasons to break a
lease: Your job may have changed, you might find the rent too steep, or you may
have lost a loved one who used to share the space with you. Here are a few
things you can do to help extract yourself from the situation:
1. Find the opt-out clause. You may not have read your lease very carefully when you were
excited to move in, and now is the time to go back and pick it apart with a
fine-toothed comb. Many leases will have clauses which allow you to legally
break your obligation to stay for the full-term of the agreement. This might
involve a fee of some kind, but can often be worth the expense if the
conditions are right.
2. Negotiate with your landlord. If you’re on good terms with your landlord, come out and explain
your situation honestly. The landlord (or property management company) can
elect to let you out of the lease, even without an opt-out clause. See if you
can do anything to “sweeten the pot” for the landlord, such as finding a
replacement renter, or propose a sum to buy your way out. (Get anything you
agree to with your landlord in writing.)
3. See about subletting. Look
at your lease agreement and see what your rights are regarding subletting the
apartment to someone else. While some forbid the practice, others may create
allowances for subleasing your apartment to someone for the balance of the
agreement. If the agreement is unclear about subleasing, talk with your
landlord about your plan and get an agreement in writing. (Recognize
you’re risking your security deposit if the subletter doesn't take care of the
4. Go to mediation. If
you can’t come to common terms, consider enrolling the help of a mediator.
Local housing advocates and “renter’s rights” groups may be able to connect you
with people who can help.
all assumes, of course, that you’re not leaving because your landlord is a
deadbeat. If you’re battling a landlord who refuses to fix up the place or
otherwise has been combative, you may have a legal case to make to break your
lease. The key is documentation. Document everything with photo or video
evidence, and keep meticulous records of your complaints.