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Several factors may motivate the decision to break a lease. Recent changes in the housing market are a big one. In New York City, for example, the average rent hit $3,870 in April 2022, a staggering amount.

When saving money, you might downsize or move to a place that best suits your budget. But before breaking a lease, read the agreement first and pay special attention to penalties, termination, and deposits.

Tenants and landlords have a legal bond when they sign a lease. If the tenant doesn't break this contract for the reasons listed below, they may face serious legal consequences. Depending on the circumstances, a landlord may sue the tenant for rent owed if no rent late notice is given, contract violations, and damages.

Besides, the tenant will have an eviction on their record, which could adversely affect their credit score. Eviction records and poor credit can make it difficult for a tenant to rent another apartment.

It's always safe to assume that every paragraph and clause in the lease agreement template represents the landlord's interests.

Find out what it takes to break a lease legally and why you may want to avoid it if you can.

Occasionally, breaking a lease isn't worth the trouble, and putting off your move might be better than paying expensive fees or enduring legal hiccups, if possible. Here are a few consequences:

  • Charges for early termination: The cost of breaking a lease can be high. If your lease is about to end, you might as well stick it out because early termination fees can amount to up to three months' rent. Additionally, you will have to pay your new apartment's fees and forfeit your security deposit.
  • You might face legal action from your landlord: When you breach your lease agreement, your landlord can sue you for lost rent, and your only option is to defend yourself in small claims court. In addition to being a civil judgment, this will be visible in public records for future landlords to see.
  • Your credit score might be affected: Even though civil judgments are no longer listed on your credit report, debt collection is still listed. A collection agency could negatively impact your credit score if your landlord uses one to collect your remaining rent in case you default on the agreement.
  • Finding a new home can be challenging: Getting a new apartment could take months, and some landlords ask for details about why you broke your previous lease, which could be a deal breaker for many owners.

A tenant can, however, legally break their lease in some cases. Here are the reasons:

The tenant is an active-duty military member

Active-duty military members are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. In the event of a change of station order, these members are protected. The tenant can terminate the lease agreement if they receive orders to relocate for 90 days and provide written notice to the landlord.

In most cases, the notice must be delivered 30 days before the termination date. Additionally, the tenant should provide proof, such as military orders or change of station orders.

The tenant is a victim of domestic violence

Landlord-tenant laws in many states protect domestic violence victims. It's possible for tenants who have experienced domestic violence to terminate their lease agreement at any time without incurring any penalties.

An act of violence must have happened within the last three to six months. In the case of domestic violence, a landlord may ask for proof. A copy of the police report or an order of protection is acceptable proof of domestic violence.

The property is unhabitable

Keeping the property habitable is the landlord's obligation under the law. Examples of this include:

  • Water availability for tenants always
  • Properly disposing of garbage in trash bins
  • Inspecting and repairing
  • Observing health and safety regulations
  • Cleaning the common areas

To terminate a lease for habitability reasons, the tenant must give written notice. According to state law, tenants must wait for an inspection after giving notice before moving out unless health or safety violations require an immediate departure.

The landlord violates entry rules or harasses tenants

Before a landlord may enter a tenant's rental unit, they must give 24 hours notice. Additionally, you need a legitimate reason to enter the apartment, for example:

  • Unit inspection
  • Repairing
  • To show prospective tenants the unit

In most cases, a court order is required for the tenant to obtain relief from the landlord's behavior. The tenant can terminate the lease if the landlord violates the court order and refuses to discontinue the behavior.

The rental property is illegal

A tenant can terminate the lease agreement without penalty if the apartment they rent is not a legal rental unit. Most states allow tenants to receive a refund of some of the rent they've paid over the life of the lease, although laws vary from state to state.

What Happens When You Break a Lease?

Your consequences may vary depending on the situation. But the landlord may sue if you leave the rental agreement without warning or reason. But, if you have a valid reason for leaving, such as an out-of-state job offer, you can negotiate for less than the remaining balance settlement for their lease.

Depending on the lease agreement, some leases provide for early termination fees, which can be up to two months' rent. Some landlords will work with tenants even if the lease doesn't. The tenant can also find another tenant and sign a sublease agreement.

Start your Sublease Agreement now

How Much Does It Cost to Break a Lease?

This depends on the lease agreement, the landlord, and state law, but breaking your lease early can come with costs, including:

  • Deduction of security deposit
  • Paying your landlord's rent until they find a new tenant
  • Attorney's fees and court costs if the landlord wins the case
  • Brokerage fees
  • Cleaning fees
  • Advertising fees

Can A Landlord Break a Lease?

Yes. Both landlords and tenants have obligations under a lease. While tenants sometimes break leases, landlords can also do the same. The landlord may wish to break the lease for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Selling the property
  • Repairing or modifying the house to increase its selling price
  • Resolve many problems in rent-controlled areas
  • Getting a new tenant to increase rent– use a rent increase notice
  • To rent out the property differently, i.e., in a month-to-month lease agreement or an Airbnb

Get a Lease Termination Letter

In a nutshell

Before you decide to break your lease contract, you should consider the consequences and immediately give your notice to vacate letter to the landlord. Ensure the apartment is in pristine condition or arrange for a cleaning service. Lastly, know your legal rights and follow state and local laws.

Start your Notice to Vacate now

Helpful Resources:

Manhattan Rent Prices Surged at Record Rate in April | Mansion Global

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act | DoD

Several factors may motivate the decision to break a lease. Recent changes in the housing market are a big one. In New York City, for example, the average rent hit $3,870 in April 2022, a staggering amount.

When saving money, you might downsize or move to a place that best suits your budget. But before breaking a lease, read the agreement first and pay special attention to penalties, termination, and deposits.

Tenants and landlords have a legal bond when they sign a lease. If the tenant doesn't break this contract for the reasons listed below, they may face serious legal consequences. Depending on the circumstances, a landlord may sue the tenant for rent owed if no rent late notice is given, contract violations, and damages.

Besides, the tenant will have an eviction on their record, which could adversely affect their credit score. Eviction records and poor credit can make it difficult for a tenant to rent another apartment.

It's always safe to assume that every paragraph and clause in the lease agreement template represents the landlord's interests.

Find out what it takes to break a lease legally and why you may want to avoid it if you can.

Occasionally, breaking a lease isn't worth the trouble, and putting off your move might be better than paying expensive fees or enduring legal hiccups, if possible. Here are a few consequences:

  • Charges for early termination: The cost of breaking a lease can be high. If your lease is about to end, you might as well stick it out because early termination fees can amount to up to three months' rent. Additionally, you will have to pay your new apartment's fees and forfeit your security deposit.
  • You might face legal action from your landlord: When you breach your lease agreement, your landlord can sue you for lost rent, and your only option is to defend yourself in small claims court. In addition to being a civil judgment, this will be visible in public records for future landlords to see.
  • Your credit score might be affected: Even though civil judgments are no longer listed on your credit report, debt collection is still listed. A collection agency could negatively impact your credit score if your landlord uses one to collect your remaining rent in case you default on the agreement.
  • Finding a new home can be challenging: Getting a new apartment could take months, and some landlords ask for details about why you broke your previous lease, which could be a deal breaker for many owners.

A tenant can, however, legally break their lease in some cases. Here are the reasons:

The tenant is an active-duty military member

Active-duty military members are protected under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. In the event of a change of station order, these members are protected. The tenant can terminate the lease agreement if they receive orders to relocate for 90 days and provide written notice to the landlord.

In most cases, the notice must be delivered 30 days before the termination date. Additionally, the tenant should provide proof, such as military orders or change of station orders.

The tenant is a victim of domestic violence

Landlord-tenant laws in many states protect domestic violence victims. It's possible for tenants who have experienced domestic violence to terminate their lease agreement at any time without incurring any penalties.

An act of violence must have happened within the last three to six months. In the case of domestic violence, a landlord may ask for proof. A copy of the police report or an order of protection is acceptable proof of domestic violence.

The property is unhabitable

Keeping the property habitable is the landlord's obligation under the law. Examples of this include:

  • Water availability for tenants always
  • Properly disposing of garbage in trash bins
  • Inspecting and repairing
  • Observing health and safety regulations
  • Cleaning the common areas

To terminate a lease for habitability reasons, the tenant must give written notice. According to state law, tenants must wait for an inspection after giving notice before moving out unless health or safety violations require an immediate departure.

The landlord violates entry rules or harasses tenants

Before a landlord may enter a tenant's rental unit, they must give 24 hours notice. Additionally, you need a legitimate reason to enter the apartment, for example:

  • Unit inspection
  • Repairing
  • To show prospective tenants the unit

In most cases, a court order is required for the tenant to obtain relief from the landlord's behavior. The tenant can terminate the lease if the landlord violates the court order and refuses to discontinue the behavior.

The rental property is illegal

A tenant can terminate the lease agreement without penalty if the apartment they rent is not a legal rental unit. Most states allow tenants to receive a refund of some of the rent they've paid over the life of the lease, although laws vary from state to state.

What Happens When You Break a Lease?

Your consequences may vary depending on the situation. But the landlord may sue if you leave the rental agreement without warning or reason. But, if you have a valid reason for leaving, such as an out-of-state job offer, you can negotiate for less than the remaining balance settlement for their lease.

Depending on the lease agreement, some leases provide for early termination fees, which can be up to two months' rent. Some landlords will work with tenants even if the lease doesn't. The tenant can also find another tenant and sign a sublease agreement.

Start your Sublease Agreement now

How Much Does It Cost to Break a Lease?

This depends on the lease agreement, the landlord, and state law, but breaking your lease early can come with costs, including:

  • Deduction of security deposit
  • Paying your landlord's rent until they find a new tenant
  • Attorney's fees and court costs if the landlord wins the case
  • Brokerage fees
  • Cleaning fees
  • Advertising fees

Can A Landlord Break a Lease?

Yes. Both landlords and tenants have obligations under a lease. While tenants sometimes break leases, landlords can also do the same. The landlord may wish to break the lease for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Selling the property
  • Repairing or modifying the house to increase its selling price
  • Resolve many problems in rent-controlled areas
  • Getting a new tenant to increase rent– use a rent increase notice
  • To rent out the property differently, i.e., in a month-to-month lease agreement or an Airbnb

Get a Lease Termination Letter

In a nutshell

Before you decide to break your lease contract, you should consider the consequences and immediately give your notice to vacate letter to the landlord. Ensure the apartment is in pristine condition or arrange for a cleaning service. Lastly, know your legal rights and follow state and local laws.

Start your Notice to Vacate now

Helpful Resources:

Manhattan Rent Prices Surged at Record Rate in April | Mansion Global

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act | DoD