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How Can You Break Your Lease Without Penalty?

How Can You Break Your Lease Without Penalty?

Life circumstances or undesirable living conditions may have you Googling: “How can you break your lease without penalty?” Being in this sort of situation can be nerve-wracking. Chances are, if you’re trying to leave your unit early, you’re already stressed! Trying to navigate your lease agreement with your landlord can be just as intimidating. Don’t worry – Low Income Relief is here to help.

How can you break your lease without penalty?

There are a number of steps you’ll want to take when looking into how to break your lease without penalty.

First, be sure to thoroughly review your rental agreement. Many will include clauses discussing valid reasons and procedures for breaking your lease per the contract you’ve already signed. Life-changing events such as the death of a family member or divorce may be included in these reasons.

There are also legally acceptable reasons to break your lease. These will vary by state, so you will want to check your local laws, but in general, the following list covers common legally acceptable reasons:

  • Your rights as a tenant are consistently being violated. Your landlord is often required to give you 24 hours of notice prior to visiting the property or your unit and must have a valid reason to enter, such as repairs, showing to prospective tenants, or inspecting potential issues. If your landlord continues to make visits without notice, you can take them to small claims court. There, you may be able to obtain a court order and begin the early lease termination process.
  • If you or someone in your household is experiencing stalking, harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence. You must inform your landlord in writing that there is a threat of future violence happening on the premises; in some states, this must be sent within 90 days after the actions that are causing you concern take place. Premises can include inside the gym, yard, hallways, apartment, parking lot, laundry room, the front and the back of the property, and so on. Your notice should also include official documents about the incident including medical records, court orders, and police reports. The landlord cannot withhold your deposit as a punishment for you moving out; they may sue the stalker / harasser / party at fault for any monetary losses or damages.
  • You are living in an illegal unit you had no knowledge of the illegality of prior. This includes garages, basements, or commercial structures. Depending on your local laws, you may be able to get part or all of the rent you paid back.
  • You live on a property that is noncompliant with housing, safety, and health codes after you have contacted your landlord about it in writing. This may include unaddressed mold and mildew, a lack of basic utilities, substantial destruction of the property, constructive eviction, or a lack of habitable housing.

If your reason isn’t laid out in the lease agreement, you can still reach out to your landlord to ask about breaking your lease amicably. It’s best to ask in some form of recorded writing, whether via letter or email so that you have documentation to refer back to.

If your landlord refuses, consider offering your security deposit as a compromise. You may also want to consider covering repairs and painting. While it’s not ideal, it’s better to end terms amicably to avoid lawsuits or a credit score drop.

You can also consider subletting. Check your lease agreement or speak with your landlord to ensure it is allowed. You will have to expend time and energy to find a new tenant and you may have to pay for advertising or background check costs, but it is still better than the alternative.

Are there consequences to breaking my lease without talking to my landlord?

Take caution if your landlord refuses and you still need to break your lease no matter what. Consequences for breaking a lease without legal justification or your landlord’s permission include:

  • A civil lawsuit to make you pay off the lease balance.
  • A lowered credit score via a credit judgment issued against you by a judge. A credit judgment is an order for you to pay off your debt that appears as a public record on your credit report that is separate from your credit score. This can linger for up to seven years. If you repay the judgment immediately, it may be able to be removed from your credit score, but this is not guaranteed.
  • A decrease in credit score up to 50 points.
  • Difficulty renting a new place or receiving a loan due to credit score drops and poor references.
By Unsplash user Aaron Sousa. One way to figure out how can you break your lease without penalty is to find a subleaser yourself!
By Unsplash user Aaron Sousa.

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As a third-year English major with years of researching and writing experience, Chloe uses her experience and her passion for helping others to help you get the financial aid you deserve.