5 Tips for Breaking a Lease Legally

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5 Tips for Breaking a Lease Legally

Staff Writer · Oct 5, 2010

Breaking a lease can have serious legal and financial consequences. While it is legal to break a lease in certain circumstances, doing so is neither easy nor fast. Prior to starting the process of breaking your lease, consider the following advice.

1. Know Your Rights

Knowing what you can and cannot legally do regarding your lease is the most important aspect to breaking a lease. Read your lease agreement and other related documents and perform preliminary research on tenant’s rights in your state.

Make note of those things that pertain to your situation that make it legal to break a lease. Sometimes, your lease agreement or state may require you to do certain things, such as put the landlord on notice of the problems that make you want to break your lease.

2. Understand Your Reasons for Breaking the Lease

If you are breaking your lease not because of maintenance or other problems or simply because you cannot afford it any longer or because you need to move for work or another reason, you may be able to break the lease quite easily. Typically in this situation your landlord will require thirty or sixty days notice and for you to forfeit your deposit or pay the remainder of the lease payments due. While this option is expensive, it is amicable.

3. Keep Records

However, you may desire to break your lease because of maintenance or safety issues or animosity between yourself and neighbors or even the landlord. In these situations, tenants have certain rights that permit a lease to be broken without financial repercussion. Most states will enable a tenant to break a lease and vacate the premises immediately should a violent crime occur on the property, the landlord fail to fix a serious maintenance issue or if the apartment, building or complex be in violation of one or more city health codes.

For one of these reasons to be the basis for a tenant breaking a lease there must be proof of the problem. Keep records of the problems and any contact you have had with the landlord or officials that show the seriousness and ongoing nature of the problem. These records will support your needing to break the lease and could be handy should the landlord decide to contest your actions.

4. Provide Notice

Notifying the landlord that you intend to break the lease and the reason for your actions is an essential step prior to vacating the apartment. Unless you fear retaliation from the landlord, do not simply move out from the premises. Instead, give your landlord written notice as far in advance as you are able. In this letter you should cite to the lease provision that provides the ability for you to break the lease and states any further obligations you have.

In some situations, you may need to pay a fine or the remainder of lease payments but in others you may be able to simply move out with no further obligations.

5. Be Courteous

Unless your relationship with the landlord has become extremely bad, it is always best to remain pleasant when breaking your lease. Be straightforward and show that you are knowledgeable about your rights and ability to break the lease without being rude or abrasive. Many times, because you are being polite in the situation, you may find that your landlord is willing to work with you and find another tenant or waive certain of your obligations.

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