We’re living in uncertain times. Sure, things have always been unpredictable and up in the air; life can deliver us lemons at any time, even in more prosperous times. In an age of unstable local economies, skyrocketing rental markets, lack of resources, unfriendly social climates – anything could happen, at any time, making it hard to commit to any kind of future plans. It’s hard to predict the future enough to plan a coffee date with friends, let alone predict where we’ll be in twelve months. And yet, leases and rental agreements have not evolved to keep up with these realities.
If you’ve encountered some of life’s uncertainty and you might need to break your lease, start with these six steps.
Read Your Rental Agreement
The first thing you’ll want to do, if you’re considering breaking your lease, is read over your rental agreement thoroughly. Your rental agreement could contain essential information on how to break your lease, making further efforts unnecessary. Think of it as the rental equivalent of reading the instruction manual for a new appliance – yes, it can be stale, boring, and deadly dull, but it could save countless hours of Googling later on (not to mention thousands of dollars, potentially!)
Speak To Your Landlord
Talking to your landlord can be intimidating, but remember – landlords are people, too! Once you’ve read over your rental agreement, try talking to your landlord and explaining your situation. They may be understanding, and will go to great lengths to help you solve your situation.
Pro Tip: Landlords tend to HATE going to court – it’s a lengthy, painful, and often expensive process for all parties involved. Have you ever had to go to court on a nice day, or when you have a ton of things to do? It’s just as miserable for your landlord, and best to be avoided on all counts. Speaking to your landlord could make legal proceedings unnecessary.
Find A Subletter
Perhaps the most common way to break a lease is just to find someone to complete the term for you! Do remember that if you find someone to sublet your apartment, they might have to sign their own subletter’s agreement with your landlord, but they’ll still technically be under your lease, meaning you could be held responsible for any damage that incurs during their stay. Be VERY CAREFUL when choosing a subletter, and do some research to find out how to protect yourself, in the event that something should happen on their watch.
One way to avoid the risks of subletting is simply to have the landlord re-rent the apartment. This option is likely only available in hot rental markets where your leaving might allow the landlord to raise the rent. The new tenants will sign a brand new lease agreement with the landlord, meaning you’ll be protected – no longer held accountable for what goes on at your former address. One thing to keep in mind: re-renting an apartment could result in you being held financially accountable for all of the days your apartment sits vacant, so it’s best to start early, and work as hard as your landlord to make sure that vacancy is filled!
Investigate Termination Offers
Sometimes, we’ve got to get out of a situation quickly, to spring on a new opportunity or to escape an undesirable situation. Check your rental agreement for mention of ‘termination offers’, or just look into it to get an idea of how other’s have broken leases before you. Termination offers often require two to three months rent to break the lease, and a forfeiture of your security deposit. Again, it’s a good idea to talk to your landlord – even if it’s scary to do so – as they might cut you a break and reduce the fees.
Learn About Exceptions To Breaking A Lease
Although it changes state by state, there are common, accepted reasons to break a lease, including:
- Unlivable Conditions
- Military Orders, Requiring Relocation
- An Injury Or Illness
While breaking a lease is never easy, going through some or all of these steps will almost certainly make it as painless (and inexpensive) as possible!
Have any experience breaking a lease you’d like to tell us about? Have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding rental agreements? Let us know in the comments!