How to Break a Lease on Your Rental Home

by Cora Gold | Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Can you break your lease? Renters ask this question often, followed by how much does it cost to break a lease. We're often taught that these agreements lock us into our rental homes for months. They're legal documents, after all — but life happens. You may eventually need to break your lease. Fortunately, it's usually possible to do this.

How much does it cost to break a lease? What's a valid reason to do so? Will it hurt your credit score? We answer these questions below.

Why should you break your lease?

It's essential to note that most leases differ from one other. They're unique to your situation, so it's not always clear whether you can break them or not. That's why you'll need to read your rental agreement before you make any further decisions. Look for specific language that lists steps to begin this process. Become as educated as possible by researching if your state has any lease-related requirements which could impact your next move.

You may find that some situations lead to penalties. For example, it's not smart to break a lease simply because you don't like your apartment's layout. You technically need certain legal grounds to cancel a contract before its expiration date. That's why it's also essential to consider why you've decided to take this course. Here are some valid reasons to break your lease:

  • Your landlord hasn't maintained your property
  • You have to transfer to a new location for work
  • You can't afford rent because you've become ill or divorced
  • You're an active military member
  • Your landlord enters your home without notice

Note that these circumstances may vary from state to state. That said, it's still reasonable to ask your landlord to break your lease for other purposes. For example, you may have to move home to help an older loved one with daily tasks. A sudden emergency forcing you to relocate often serves as an acceptable excuse to break your lease. Your landlord will hopefully be sympathetic.

How much does it cost to break a lease?

You'll need to give your landlord one or two months notice once you decide to break your lease. Many agreements require this step — but it's also a common courtesy, as your landlord will likely need to find a new tenant. You may want to offer to find a replacement yourself if you must leave immediately. Make sure to write down all your communication with your landlord.

You'll then have to comply with the process your contract outlines for early lease termination. How much does it cost to break a lease? You may need to give up your security deposit or pay a few months rent. You may even have to make repairs or conduct a deep clean to satisfy your landlord's needs. You should consult with your landlord to make sure you’re following all the necessary steps.

Will a broken lease hurt your credit?

If your lease agreement doesn't say much about this process, you'll likely have to pay rent until your landlord finds a replacement. Your landlord has a duty to mitigate damages — or re-rent your unit as soon as possible. This process could take anywhere from two weeks to two months, or even longer in some cases. What happens if you can't afford those months' rent? You'll probably face a few consequences.

For instance, your landlord may send your account to a collection agency. That mark can stay on your credit report for years. Your credit score won't undergo any changes unless you can't pay rent as your landlord looks for a new tenant.

Is it worthwhile to break your lease?

It's often worthwhile to break a lease if you have a valid reason. However, if you can work out issues with your landlord, it's far better to stay put until it expires. You won't have to endure a potentially lengthy legal process this way. However, you may need to relocate no matter what. In that case, it's smart to break your lease as quickly as possible. Submitting a notice makes a huge difference for your landlord.

Your decision depends on your situation. Be sure to conduct enough research so you know which route to take. Ensure you know your legal rights and communicate with your landlord to prevent any complications during this process.

The information contained in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice.  Readers are encouraged to seek professional financial or legal advice as they may deem it necessary.

Categories: Renters

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