The Cost of Breaking a Lease

Author: Shannon Jones

breaking a lease


Maybe you’re relocating for work, or you’ve found a great special on a new apartment that you just can’t pass up. Whatever’s happening, you are in a predicament—you want to break your lease before your lease term is officially up.

You are not doomed to pay rent for the rest of your lease’s duration! Although you are contractually bound to your lease in the eyes of the law (and your landlord or property manager), there are numerous ways to break your lease legally.


Review Your Lease.


The first thing you need to do is review your lease. Look for a “break clause” or “early termination clause,” which details the conditions and requirements that need to be met in order for you, the tenant, to break your lease. Many landlords and property managers require written notice and some kind of fee (for example, two month’s rent).


Talk to Your Landlord or Property Manager.


Even if you don’t have a specific clause laid out in your lease, talking to your landlord or property manager is the best way to find out exactly what you need to do in order to break your lease without penalty. Your landlord or property manager will likely be willing to work with you (especially if you’ve been a good tenant), since they often prefer to have their rental occupied.

For example, if your landlord or property manager needs you to pay two month’s rent for you to break your lease, see if they would be willing to take payment in installments before you vacate the rental unit, allowing you a little more time to save up or get your finances in order. Or you could ask your landlord or property manager to move you to a month-to-month lease if you know you won’t be in your current apartment for the full 12-month term.


Find a Subletter or Replacement Tenant.


If you’re trying to avoid paying extra fees to break your lease, it may be in your best interest to find a subletter or a replacement tenant.

What’s the difference between a subletter and a replacement tenant? Well, a subletter takes on your current lease for the rest of its duration, whereas a replacement tenant gets an entirely new lease for your same rental unit.

Whether you go for a subletter or a replacement tenant will largely depend on you communicating with your landlord or property manager. Their preference will take precedence! Unless, of course, you have an exempt reason for breaking your lease.


Legally Justifiable Reasons to Break Your Lease.


There are instances for breaking your lease that exempt you from the typical requirements. Some reasons are as follows:

  • Reassignment due to active duty military
  • Domestic violence
  • Unsafe or uninhabitable apartment conditions
  • Landlord is in violation of entry rules or harassment
  • Apartment is considered an illegal unit to rent

Check with your local city and state laws to see what specifically qualifies as a legal reason to break your lease (without any penalty or fees) in your area.


Once you are able to break your lease—whether by paying two month’s rent or finding a new tenant or something else—you will be free to rent a new apartment of your choosing. Find your next apartment and get a great deal when you use Apartment Finder!