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5 Tips to Painlessly Get Out of Your Lease

When you signed the lease for your rental, you were likely excited, and chances are, you planned to stay--but then things changed.


Whether you find yourself needing to relocate due to changes with your school or work, are finding that your roommate or former partner and you need to do your separate ways, or are simply hoping to make a change in your housing, breaking your lease early can come with its share of difficulties--not to mention its share of costs. Make the transition as smooth as possible with these tips.


Explain the Situation:

First, it’s vital to remember that a lease is a binding contract like any other. You signed the contract and are legally bound to the terms--regardless of the change in your circumstances, that fact remains. Don’t take breaching the lease lightly; be courteous and offer as much notice to your landlord or property manager as possible. Give enough notice and explain the nature of your need to leave the rental (thus terming your lease early), and a kind landlord or property manager may find it beneficial for both parties to simply let their tenant move out with a minimal fee.


If you are experiencing a life-changing event, detailing the reasons you need to leave can assist your manager in making a decision that will be mutually beneficial. A job loss or relocation, the death of a spouse or roommate, divorce or breakups, or serious illness can all be legitimate reasons for your need to relocate, and taking the time to articulate them will let your landlord know that you are not trying to get out the lease simply because you are not responsible. Furthermore, there may be specific situations where you can break your lease of which you are not aware. For instance: if you are in the military and have been called on active service in another area, your local or state laws may require your landlord to allow lease termination without penalties. Speaking with your landlord directly about your reasons for leaving will ensure that both of you have the full picture and can reasonably address the situation.


Double-Check Your Lease Agreement:

Your lease agreement is the map and the key to any questions during your lease term. It should specifically address the duration of the tenancy and the consequences for breaking your lease. It may detail the procedures should you wish to get out of your lease and include an opt-out clause that allows you to leave by paying a fee (rather than being responsible for rent until the next tenant comes along.)


Find A New Renter or Ask to Sublet:

Landlords do have expenses, and unexpectedly, needing finding a new qualified tenant takes extra resources. Offering to find another tenant in your stead is a simple way to ease your landlord’s finical burden when you leave early. You can do this one of two ways: simply vet tenants and direct them to the landlord for the official screening process, or ask to sublet your rental to ensure that rent will be covered and that you are still maintaining a positive relationship with your landlord. Remember, in either of these circumstances, you should expect your landlord or manager to only approve a replacement that meets the same tenant screening criteria you were required to pass upon move-in, and if you sublet, you are still responsible for your lease which means you could be held financially accountable if your replacement ends up being a nightmare tenant and causes damage or doesn’t pay rent.


Property Swap:

Life events create new housing needs. If you're trying to leave your current rental because you need to downsize after a split with a partner, or you need more space because you’re expecting a new addition to your family, you may have more options than simply cutting your loses and damaging an otherwise good landlord-tenant relationship. Instead, explain your situation to your landlord or property manager and see if they may have another property for rent that could more readily fit your needs. Since you will still be paying rent to the same person or entity (rather than leaving entirely) you may incur a smaller fee--if any when moving into the new place. This is particularly true if you live in an apartment complex where the change will be easy aside from a potential cleaning fee during tenant turnover.


Be A Great Tenant:

Above all, being a great renter throughout your lease term will significantly improve your landlord-tenant relationship. Properly caring for the property, being courteous to neighbors, and paying rent on-time will greatly work in your favor. Landlords are unlikely to cut slack for an irresponsible tenant. Similarly, they will be much more forgiving if you have had a great relationship with them and have posed no issues until this life event changed your plans.


Breaking your lease should be a last resort, but there are certain situations when it is the most prudent--if not the only--option. Communicating fully with your landlord or property manager well in advance will get you far in your negotiations process, and getting creative with your solutions to the issue could be the key to finding an agreeable resolution for everyone involved.


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