What if you have to break a lease?
If you’ve ever been faced with the need to break a lease on a rented apartment, then you probably know that it’s not a decision you should enter into lightly. Apartment leases hold you accountable for the rent on the apartment for the duration of the lease term, so should you walk away from the apartment before that time is up, you could be sued for the remainder of the rent.
Most landlords and property managers, however, don’t want to spend their time wrangling with past tenants in court. They’d prefer to have a steady paying tenant in the unit who isn’t going to bring them any headaches. If that person isn’t you, they’d rather replace you quickly with a paying tenant. However, that doesn’t change one simple truth: no matter why you’re trying to break the lease, they’re not going to be happy about it.
Here’s a few tips on how to approach a lease break situation in an effort to achieve the best outcome possible:
-The less time left on your lease, the less chance you are going to be held liable for the remaining rent. If you just moved in and are trying to flake out a month later, expect a heightened degree of ire. If you’ve already lived there for 10 months, were a responsible tenant and have a valid reason for leaving, you are more likely to be let off the hook for the last two. Somewhere in the middle of your lease? Probably just depends on what kind of day your property manager is having.
-Your security deposit can be held for a portion of the remaining rent, so don’t expect to get it back. Just about every state’s laws regarding security deposits allow deposits to be held for “breach of lease” and “unpaid rent,” which would be considered unpaid if you were to break your lease. (Here’s a helpful guide to security deposit laws across the country.)
-Your situation may affect how your case is handled, though it’s not supposed to. If you’re moving due to a job loss or some kind of personal crisis, you may be handled more sympathetically than if you are moving in with a significant other or just decided that you hate your apartment.
-Expect the worst, hope for the best. If you know there’s high demand for your apartment complex or even a waiting list of people trying to get in, you’re a lot more likely to come away from your lease break in decent shape. If your apartment complex is like a ghost town at high noon, then you might want to try to stick it out for the rest of your lease term. No point in paying rent twice!