How to Get Out of an Apartment Lease

So, life happened and now you’re wondering how to get out of an apartment lease.

Luckily for us, we haven’t had to do this often. . . for me, I’ve only actually done this once, and it’s
because I voluntarily got relocated for a new position in the military. Getting relocated if you’re in
the military is one of the ways you can break your lease without any penalties. All I had to do was
show my landlord my military orders relocating me and giving them a move out date! It was that simple!

Now obviously, you don’t want to go around breaking rental leases all over the place because it’s really
expensive with all the fees and penalties. It will also look bad on your rental history, and make it harder for you to rent somewhere else in the future. But we get it, life happens and sometimes you have to get out of an apartment lease before the lease is up, so what do you do?

Now before we get started, let’s talk about the rental agreement that you signed. You have to
understand that the rental agreement you signed is a legally binding contract between you and the
landlord that says you will pay however much money to them across the duration of the agreement.

So if you signed a 12-month rental agreement with them and the rent is $1,000 a month, you’re saying in a legal contract that you will pay the landlord $12,000 across a 12-month period. But what is the landlord
supposed to do if you need to break the lease after 7 months and you’ve only paid $7,000 of the
$12,000 you said you’d pay them? Are they just supposed to lose out on the last $5,000?

Unfortunately, the landlords won’t eat the loss. If you just leave, they can legally come after you
and take you to court for the remaining amount of rent you owe them. So before you just up leave,
there are a few things you should do!

Check your rental agreement or lease and see what the early termination clause says.

Sometimes they will have things in there like…

If you break the lease early…

  • You will forfeit your security deposit
  • You will owe one month’s rent
  • You’re going to cover the time the apartment is vacant
  • You will owe 90 days’ worth of rent

There could be a lot of different things in there, so make sure to read it!

Speak with your landlord and tell them you need to get out of your apartment lease early and why.

In a perfect world, they would allow you to break the lease early and market your apartment for a new tenant, but that’s not always the case.

If you had a new applicant ready to apply for your apartment that was credit-worthy and had their
finances in order, most reasonable landlords would allow them to apply for the apartment and move in
after you.

Occasionally, landlords will allow subletting your rental. Subletting is where you do a rental agreement
with someone else for your rental, but your rental contract would be between you and the individual
moving into your apartment only. You would maintain the agreement between you and the landlord.

A lot of college students do this when school is out and they go home for the summer. They sublet their
apartment to students staying around campus for the summer and then they move back in right before
school starts. However, subletting is typically not allowed in most places, so make sure you ask about
subletting before you do it. Because if you do it and it’s not allowed, you could get evicted!

If your landlords are not about any of those options, then there are a few other things you might be able to use to get out of an apartment lease.

These are going to be different based on the tenant laws in your state. So before you go this route, make sure you check the tenant laws in your state. You can do this by googling “Landlords Duty to Re-rent in Whatever State you live in”.

The “Habitability Standard”

Landlords are required to make sure that the property is livable at all times. This means that there’s always running water, heat, performing repairs as needed and in a timely manner, and following the safety and health codes for the area that you live in.

If the landlord is in violation of habitability standards, then you need to make a complaint in writing to the landlord to have whatever issues fixed. If the landlords refuse to fix these issues that violate the habitability standards in a timely manner. Every state law will have a different definition of a timely manner. After that time period, you have the right to notify the landlord that you intend to break the lease.

State law will determine how long you have to wait to move out til you can break the lease without any consequences unless the safety violation was so bad that you have to move out immediately.

The Breach of Quiet or Peaceful Enjoyment

There are tenant laws that restrict how often a landlord can enter your private residence. Even though this is the landlord’s property, they can’t just show up unannounced and enter the residence. In most states, landlords have to give you at least a 24-hour notice before they can legally enter the property that you’re renting from them.

Additionally, some landlords fail to keep the property quiet by repeatedly ignoring complaints about
other tenants being loud or other poor behavior. In this case, you should contact your local landlord-tenant attorney so you can talk about what the process would look like to break your lease.

If you join the military, you can break your lease early in every city and state in the US for Active Military Service.

All you have to do is provide your military orders saying you have to go somewhere for more
than 30 days and *BOOM* – the lease is broken early without any consequences. Once the landlord receives the notice, the lease will end in 30 days or at the end of the month.

So if you need to break a lease and you don’t have any other options, join the military! If you need a recruiter, let us know in the comments. We know some people! 😉

If none of these work for you, there are a few other options that you might have available to you for breaking your lease, depending on the state and city laws.

At times you’re allowed to break a lease and move out for family health reasons, such as needing to go home and take care of your parents. This can also work if you are a victim of domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault.

It’s important to remember that when you sign a lease, you’re signing a legally binding contract with the
landlord. So if there is a possibility that you might have to move early, then we suggest getting a
month-to-month lease or doing a 3-month or 6-month lease option.

If you sign a lease, there’s a high chance that you will pay some sort of fee if you have to break it early,
so it’s best to stay there for the duration of your lease. We understand that life happens, and when it does, make sure you check the laws for your landlord’s duty to re-rent. You can do that by Googling “landlords duty to re-rent in whatever state you live in”.

After you do that, it’s totally a good idea to call a local landlord-tenant attorney in your area. A lot of the
time, you can call these places for free and just tell them your situation. They will typically give you
guidance and direction for free and let you know if you need their services at all and if you do, what it
would cost.

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