When Is it OK to Break Your Lease?

When you first move into an apartment, your property manager will have you sign a binding contract. This contract is called a lease. If you break your lease, you will be in violation of your contract.

Breaking your lease can have serious consequences unless you have a valid reason to do so. There are many reasons that people break leases, but not all of them are valid.

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Facing a Penalty
Breaking your lease could mean that you’ll have to pay a penalty. If you have signed a lease for a year, then you are required to pay for the year even if you move out early. This contract is a legal obligation that you have entered into. To avoid having to pay a penalty — or at least the full penalty amount — you will need to show a valid reason for breaking the lease. Below we outline several valid reasons for breaking a lease. Some will get you out of the contract entirely, and some will lessen the penalty you will face.

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Minor Chance of Penalty

  • Serious damage has occurred to your apartment. If your rental has become so damaged that it is no longer livable, you will be able to break the lease with no penalty. The damage must have been caused by a natural disaster, a break-in or some other mitigating circumstance. The damage cannot have been caused by you.
  • You are called away to active military duty. If you signed a lease and were called to duty, you have the right to break your lease with no penalty.
  • Serious health issues. In some cases, a serious blow to your health will allow you to get out of your lease. This usually requires that you move to an assisted living home.

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Moderate Chance of Penalty

  • Property manager fails in his/her obligations. When a property manager fails to meet the responsibilities spelled out in the lease, there’s a good chance that you will be able to leave without a penalty. An example of this is when a landlord does not keep up with repairs of the apartment despite repeated requests for maintenance. Just be sure to document each request.
  • Property manager disregards your privacy. This is when your landlord walks into your apartment without warning. Another example would be if you have loud neighbors that keep you up all night, and your complaints to the property manager go unaddressed.

Keep in mind that if you plan to break your lease, you should have documented evidence to support your claim in case you need to go to court over the issue.

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No Valid Reason
Often the renter does not have a valid reason for breaking their lease. You might think you do, but the law thinks differently.

If you don’t have a valid reason, then the best you can hope for is to talk to your property manager. Reason with them, and see if you can work out a deal. If you give your property sufficient notice before leaving, they may be able to find someone to take over your lease.

Unlivable conditions, damage to your belongings and the reluctance of your property manager to make timely repairs are some of the reasons for legally breaking a lease. Legal intervention may be required if the property manager does not want to let you go. However, challenging the lease based on those valid reasons enables you to minimize any loss stemming from your early departure.

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