8 Tactics For Breaking Your Lease Without Losing Money

breaking-your-leaseSigning a lease on an apartment definitely has its pros and cons. With the standard one-year lease, you’re guaranteed a place to live at a fixed rate for that period of time.  Simultaneously, you’re bound to that contract and can’t simply leave without financial repercussions. Fortunately, there are some ways to still have flexibility while under a lease and to limit the financial damage if you want or need to break that lease.  Here are some of the tips I’ve learned after dealing with several landlords.

1. Find out if you’ll be able to sublet your apartment.  Every lease that I’ve signed has said that tenants are not allowed to sublease the apartment, at least not without landlord approval.  However, I’ve found that subleasing is rarely a problem, as most landlords seem to be indifferent as long as they don’t lose any rental income.  If you’re unsure, ask the landlord before moving in what their policy is on subtenants.  If, for some crazy reason, they won’t allow subleases under any circumstances, you might want to consider renting elsewhere.  I don’t think this will be the case for most situations, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask the landlord ahead of time.

2. Figure out how sublettable your apartment will beI currently pay $400 a month to rent, which is on the low end for the city I live in. Since it’s a decent apartment for a cheap price, I’m confident that I’ll never have a problem subletting if I decide to leave. Subletting can be stressful and difficult, especially in places where there’s an abundance of rooms available.  However, marketing an inexpensive apartment in a highly-desirable neighborhood means that there will be much more interest should I decide to leave.

3. Lower rent to lower liability.  While we all obviously want to pay as little as possible for an apartment, an overlooked advantage of lower rent is that you’ll simply owe less if you move out early.  It merely comes down to simple math that paying rent owed for an apartment you don’t live in that’s $400 a month is much less painful than $800 a month.  If you’re moving somewhere that you’re not certain you will stay, consider a lower rent on a less-fancy apartment for this reason, too.

4. Negotiate the terms of your lease. If you know you want to be in a apartment less than a year, see if the landlord will accept a lease term shorter than 12 months. It never hurts to ask, and you’ll often be surprised how easily you can negotiate with very little time or effort on your part.

Also, try to negotiate as small of a deposit as possible.  I’m not saying this so you can trash the place and have as little money on the hook as possible (plus, you can still be taken to court for further damages).  But if you need to break your lease, for whatever reason, your landlord will have less of your money in their hands already.

5. Give plenty of notice. If you must leave, make sure to give your landlord as much notice as possible.  Many landlords are nice about this and will try to find a replacement to fill your unit.  Giving your landlord more notice gives them more time to advertise the apartment and find someone new.

6. Force landlords to mitigate your loss.  In many states, landlords are required to search for a replacement tenant to mitigate the tenants’ loses.  While some landlords may be good about this, they’re also still entitled to receive rent from you while they are searching.  I haven’t had any experience with this, but I would anticipate that not all landlords are inclined to put 100% effort into their search for a replacement tenant. Still, it’s their responsibility to do something about it and reminding them of law is a good idea for your own sake.

7. Carefully read the terms of your lease (and use them to your advantage).  If your landlord has violated terms of the lease, like invading your privacy, you may have grounds to terminate the contract.  If they’ve failed to properly maintain the property, that could be grounds for breaking a lease, too.  But just because you believe that the landlord has violated the lease doesn’t mean you can simply walk away.  Landlords aren’t likely to give in easily, so prepare for resistance and even legal action if you simply try to move out. At the very least, your security deposit is on the line.

8. Stop paying rent.  This applies only in the worst-case scenario where your landlord is awful and you have no other recourse. You’ll probably be evicted, which is not good when searching for new apartments.  In many states, you are allowed to leave if your apartment has become uninhabitable.  In either case, you’re probably going to have to fight to get your security deposit back.

Before making any choices related to breaking your lease, consider the ethics of your decision. While many of the tactics are favorable for tenants trying to escape a lease, I’m not advocating screwing over your landlord.  Whenever you can, be fair and honor your lease and try to come to an agreement with your landlord if you must leave.

Have you ever had to break a lease? How did you do it?

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photo by: seier+seier

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Comments

  1. The first thing that I would do is try my hardest to find someone else to take over the lease

  2. I’ve never had to break a lease, but as a landlord I would think that just asking nicely and giving me notice would probably be enough. Landlords do not want pissed off tenants living in their property.

    • Good to know, Ashley. Unfortunately, I feel like some landlord really don’t care who lives in their property, just as those same landlord don’t care enough to properly maintain the rental. But yea, I would think keeping the tenants happy would be best on both ends (for the good landlords out there).

    • I have a mice infestation and a preemie baby that will come home soon. I want to move, I don’t want to bring my baby home to this. The roaches and the mice is is just to much for me. We have caught 5 thus far and my neighbors are catching them too. I want to get out my lease without breaking it, I’m in Houston. Can I?

  3. I’ve never had to break a lease, but as a landlord I would think that just asking nicely and giving me notice would probably be enough. Landlords do not want pissed off tenants living in their property.

  4. Kevin Yu says:

    I actually broke my lease 1 month early. The landlord allowed me to because I never paid late.

  5. I know outside of many major cities, subletting is not that common. I have leased 5 different apartments in my life, and one home, and none of them could be subletted. Though some apartments, for a small nominal fee of course, would allow you to break your lease for some personal issues.

  6. We broke our lease a couple years ago when I switched jobs.  We got the landlord to agree to having someone else take over our lease with the conditions that we had to find them and we paid rent until someone else was paying it.  We appreciated the landlord’s flexibility and  he appreciated that there would be only happy tenants and no missed rent payments.  It worked out great.

  7.  very nice .. thanks a lot .. it really helped me a lot, because i am really thinking about my lease, because i know that it will be a great expense in my part .. thankyou 

  8. Looking back on it now, there has been several times during my apartment-hopping days that I ended up breaking a lease. Never once did I have an issue with the landlord though… I simply called them, told them that I was thinking about moving for this reason or that, and asked to be let out of the lease.

    Every single time the landlord had no issue. Then again, it probably helped that I was always early on my rent and never gave any of my landlords any trouble. Now that I know what I know about being a landlord however, I have a newfound appreciation for how much it must have sucked to lose a tenant as good as I was.

    • Yea, I’m sure it it’s not fun to both lose a good tenant and find a new tenant at the same time.  But I would hope landlords understand that that’s just how things go sometime.  If you need to move to another city, there’s not much you can do about that.

  9. I tried to break my lease earlier this year, but I suspect since I was only about 6 months in they weren’t all that interested in letting me out.  I’m going to try again, but this time I plan on telling them that I need to move to another city.  I’m a little worried that I may not be giving them enough notice as I want to be out by October, but if they want me to stay an extra month I guess I can deal.

    I think my biggest problem is that I’m a pushover, lol.

  10. This is all good information. I am thinking of breaking a lease. I live in a carriage house, the landlord lives in the main house. She is constantly calling me, emailing me, and getting in my business. I don’t understand this, as I pay rent early every month, am quiet, and I have made improvements (I turned the dirt pile of a yard into a garden, and am always weeding the sidewalks, etc, though not my responsibility). The final straw this week was that I was standing in my yard, grilling dinner with a friend, we were arguing slightly about politics (not yelling or raised voices, at all, totally lighthearted). She immediately KICKED US OUT of the premises. She told us she couldn’t tolerate our noise (she HAD to be listening in to even hear us!!) and made us leave for a while so she could “get some peace and quiet”. I am over it. SO- bottom line- I am looking for other places in May, my lease isn’t over until September.  If I find the perfect place at the perfect price, I want out. I am worried about handling it though.

  11. Mackenzie says:

    I’m trying to break my lease. My roommate is horrible. We have both decided to leave, so I was hoping to just stay until August. We talked to management, but we renewed over a month or two ago and now they say we are stuck until August of 2013. I’m trying to sublease it, but isn’t there a way to just break the lease? Management said you can not break the lease under any circumstance…

  12. Bonni Apple says:

    Please someone…. give me guidance!?

    I moved into an apartment 6 months ago, signed a year lease. I should not have done this, I am new to this city, I should have checked out different areas and done something a bit more temporary at first. I have been contemplating leaving this city, in search of another home… BUT I signed a year lease. At first, I asked my landlord if I could sublease (on the lease it says that I must get her approval) she said yes. I found someone… but then she said she changed her mind and that she would let me void my lease, provided that we find someone new to move in. She thought this an opportune time to raise the price from 675 to 750. She posted it on the mls and I went ahead and made flyers, posted it on craigslist to give it a boost. The student rush has come and gone and nothing happened! 2 months has passed:( The studio is now overpriced, and I lost the window. My landlord is impossible to get a hold of, she never replies to my emails, sometimes I will get a one word response via text and that is all. I feel like she is trying to teach me a lesson.
    I am contemplating looking for someone that wants to do 4 month sublease on the sly, someone that I can trust that needs a comfy home… while I go travel.
    Any suggestions on how to get out of my lease 6 months early, not go broke and advice on how to deal with my impossible landlord?

  13. shallowpockets says:

    I personally wish things were really that simple. I signed a lease and had to break it weeks before the lease start date because of a cross-country job transfer. The landlord kept my money that paid upfront for first and last, charged me a huge cancellation fee(used my security deposit), and is still charging me rent months later because another tenant hasn’t been found. I tried cancelling payment because i can’t afford two rents, but was threatened with a lawsuit. Any suggestions?

    • The land lord also has to do his part to find s tenant. He just can’t sit back and gouge you like that. It’s in the lease. I wouldn’t pay another penny. You gave him notice, he kept your money. Now he needs to find someone

  14. I recently moved in to an apartment.  I wanted to move in on the 1st but it was easier to find help to move on the weekend. so I moved a lot of stuff on a Saturday.  The manager said as she was opening the door that it was the apartment I saw.  I was a little shocked when she opened the door as I told her that wasn’t the apartment I saw.  I had even remembered making a comment about the kitchen color.  Usually apts are white walls and ceilings.  The kitchen actually had color to it.  She said the one I moved into was the one I saw.   It also had an island separating the kitchen cabinets with the rest.  She said I was probably thinking of the Community Room where there is an island.   She said we could do the lease on this past Monday since Saturday I was moving.  Monday it didn’t get done.  I officially moved the rest of my stuff on Wednesday.  I saw her in the hall and she asked if I was staying there that night.  I said I was.  She said we need to get the lease done since this is government housing.  I had my phones on that night and was in the apt.  She never called or came up.  Thursday I was off so I was around all day putting my stuff away, etc.  Yesterday she called me at work and said we really need to get this lease done.  My friend said she wouldn’t sign it since she is saying the one I moved into is the one I saw.  I told my friend if I don’t sign, she could say you have to leave immediately.  I have no place to go.  My friend said she would probably say you have 30 days.  The thought of moving again in 30 days about makes me sick.  I don’t know what to do.  All I know is I am suppose to sign the lease tonight and I have already told her that this was not the apartment I saw.  I am by no means trying to get off on the wrong foot with this lady.  I am an easy person to get along with .  I just feel there were a lot of inconsistencies about this.  I wanted to move here because it was only a couple of miles and 10 minutes from work.

  15. Christine106 says:

    I have two disrespectful roommates who invite their friends to bring their dogs over and smoke on the balcony. I don’t think it’s okay when I can smell marijuana in my apartment. Both the smoking and the pets are a violation of our rental agreement, what are my options for getting out of this lease?

  16. fuckyou11111 says:

    If you have a place for $400 a month you do not have to kill anyone.  If you have an apartment for more you will want to kill people.

  17. My daughter just signed a lease but has not paid the deposit or received the keys..before she signed the lease she thought the rent was going to be $425 – when she was there to sign the lease he told her she would pay $530 for the first four months..this takes care of the last months rent. Her rent is not due to begin until August. She felt pressured to sign the lease..can she get out of this if she has not paid the dep or received the keys?

  18. i was growing marijuana legally in my apartment and my landlords came in to do an inspection of fire alarms and that kind of thing. they found my plants and made me take them down. is not being able to grow my medicine grounds to exit the lease> i live in California (fyi)

  19. InNEEDofANswers says:

    Me and my wife have been living in a home for 3 years. We have a landlord who is currently a slum lord, but we rented from him for 3 years. In those three years we haven’t signed any new lease, but he allowed us to stay there even in the 7months when i was out of work and we wasn’t able to pay rent properly ever since. The home is literally falling apart, but he doesn’t fix anything i guess due to the debt we incurred, but the thing is we still payed something. He comes every week, which he is only to come every month and the house has recently been infested with mice because of his lack of poor maintenance and the wiring is poor which has cause our light bill to reach ridiculous amounts of $900.00 or more every month. He doesn’t keep proper reciepts either and he cannot tell us exactly how much we owe him and i think that he is trying to trap us there. He told some of his workers that he doesn’t care about the homes in that area anyway (Urban) and that they are just a tax write off. Would it be against the law to move out due to the fact that he is just trapping us off?

  20. ME AND MY BOYFRIEND LEASE IS UP MARCH THE 1ST 2013 WE GOT A REALIER BECAUSE WE DIDNT HAVE THE TIME TO LOOK SHE FOUND US A HOUSE BUT IT WASNTBTHE AREA WE WANT IT TO MOVE IN SO WE WENT A HEAD AND PAID A DEPOSIT AND FRIST MONTH RENT PLUS AND EXTAR 300 BECAUSE OF CERDIT .SO WE WENT INTO THE OFFICE TO SIGN A PAPER NOT  KNOWING IT WAS THE BACK TO THE LEASE WHICH WE NEVER SAW THEN WHEN WE SAW IT WE DECIDE IT TO STAY WHERE WERE AT IS IT POSSIBLE FOR US TOO GET OR MONEY BACK WE NEVER MOVED IN OR GOT A KEY OR NOTHING

  21. Confused says:

    We have been at our place for almost 5 years, but we are looking for something cheaper due to income lose, we have 6 months to go on the lease but I don’t know how to tell my landlord that we wanna move out, and if there are any penalties. What would u advice me to do? Thank u!

  22. Nycgirl says:

    So question! I am in a lease right now which will be up at the end of September! I payed everything up front and had to leave 2 months security deposit…. So now that college is up in June and I am having the not luckiest time finding a job I am moving out of state! I asked my landlord about subletting and she said no! But then after I looked at my lease I realized that my lease had been notarized after the date I had signed! Is this against the law on the landlord, also the notary was not present when I signed my lease!

    Help help help!!! Any advise ?

  23. I think the four tip you gave was really helpful. You talk about how negotiating your lease will help you to define your personal terms and how long you will actually need the lease. I move around a lot for my job, and so it is essential that I find a short term rental property. That being said, I like to live alone, so finding an apartment landlord that will negotiate with me about the terms of my lease is very important so that I keep my job and don’t have to pay a lot of money to get out of my contract. Thank you for the insight!

  24. I am having a similar incident here in Houston . I want to break my lease term because I have to relocate for some reason, Now I got the point thanks to your post.

  25. My new landlord said I could move in early and not owe anythink til the 1st. Said this is how they do it. We agreed to the 15th. I gave them first months payment for the 1st.to get the keys on the 8th. I asked if I could get keys early on the 11th to move in a few boxes. All three manager’s were there talked back an forth said OK no problem. Now I’m being billed for last month, even though they agreed and accepted Sept one as first months rent. I was told that because I moved in before the 15th. This was never explained to me before when I paid first month rent. In fact I asked twice do I owe anything before the check date. I was told no. The check covered Sept first and I don’t owe anything until Oct 1st. Now when I disputed this I’m told corporate doesn’t know I didn’t move til the 15th they only know I signed the lease on the 11th. Ok now in addition to this when I got to the home, the road was tore up. I had to walk with my few boxes four house down just to get to the driveway. Also the road in front of my home was blocked through the 15th fue to reconstruction of this road and I have truck rental receipt. And a picture of the tire up road of the 11th. Do I owe this money? I feel manipulated and lied to. Sherry

  26. Our situation is a bit different…My daughter signed a lease last December for an apartment that was under construction. Her move in date was August 2015. The apartment complex was not ready. The new move in date was September 2015. The apartments gave each of the tenants-to-be a check to help with their expenses. My daughter did NOT go and pick hers up. When the September date came to move in, they were not completed. The new date is now late November. Again, the apartments are giving out checks to help with expenses and she has NOT gone to get hers. She is having to commute and is really wearing her out. She took early classes because she was going to be right next to campus, and is now driving in Houston traffic during rush hour (taking about an hour to get there). We are purchasing a townhouse at this point and want to break the lease. She has a $300 pet deposit that she put down at the apartments. Can we break the lease and how? Will we get our deposit back?

  27. Just moved in less than a month. I am disabled and the told me I would have a HANDICAP SPOT not so .Now it’s first come first serve. And the people here don’t have any respect for anyone. I want out what can I do.I am a disabled veteran

  28. Hi. I have a question. I signed a 1 year lease in December of last year. It is October and the apartment manager made us sign another lease in the middle of November for whenever our lease is up in December. Now they said it doesn’t take effect until our first lease is up. Well I may be getting a job promotion and need to move in January. I asked about it and they said even though it doesn’t take effect until our first lease is up that we are still responsible and would have to pay to terminate the second lease. We don’t have that kind of money and it isn’t making sense to us. They also are requiring us to buy renters insurance by the end of this month even though it doesn’t state anywhere in our first lease agreement that we are required to have renters insurance. I need any advice on what we need to do to get out of this second lease that isn’t in effect yet, but we are responsible for. Think you!

  29. I signed a year lease 3 months ago and it stated that there was no smoking. We are non smokers and would have never moved into an apartment if we knew that it wasn’t a non smoking apartment. Well not only does the 2nd fl tenant smoke cigarettes they smoke marijuana on a daily basis. I have a daughter with severe allergies and asthma. The smoke is coming through my vents and my walls as we live on the 3rd fl. I have told my landlord and his property management company that I wish to break the lease and now they are no answering my calls, texts, or emails. In addition to that the 2nd fl have guests over every night they are constantly yelling and banging. I really want to move away from this place to some where more healthy for my family. Do I have a legal right to break my lease?

  30. I have to break my lease which was for 12 months. My rent is payed in 7 instalments over the year so i dont have to pay rent in the last 3 months. My landlord is looking for the next instalment even tho i am moving out. He also forgot to get me to sign the lease at the start anybody know if i have to pay the instalment or can he legally do anything about it?

  31. my daughter was recently added to my lease when she turned 18, and we are on Sec 8, and everything…and she is moving out, what is going to happen to her for breaking it, and is anything going to affect me in any way, i’m head of household, and pay my rent every month, and have never done anything to jeopardize my place to live…

  32. Any comments/feedback about my terrible situation encountered first time ever in life would be appreciated:

    I moved into a duplex with a roommate March 23rd, 2016 earlier this year and signed a lease for a year till March 23rd, 2017 in Cleveland, Tennessee which is in Bradley County, TN. While signing the lease my roommate’s name went on top as lessee along with the landlord’s and my name fell lower down on page seen by others as someone staying there and just my first name. However, the landlord’s full signature along with full signatures of my roommate’s and mine are on final page of lease contract. My landlord for some odd reason always claims me as the primary tenant just because I saw the place 1st and then after meeting this roommate online we agreed to move in together.

    Within the 1st two months at the very worst I felt like moving out as discovered my roommate who I seemed to get good vibes from at 1st seems very unreasonable in doing fair amount of chores in duplex with anger issues and he had a proven flawed sense with he just looking after the bathroom and me with the kitchen when the bathroom wasn’t always clean and he hasn’t cleaned up his own dishes still in the sink since April thinking I would clean up his own dishes when with common sense he needs to as he is an adult and he would expect me to take the trash out always. Once after a talk we had in May of this he still hasn’t changed and this talk happened after the landlord giving him three days to vacate in May as he was behind on rent and landlord mentioned how it made me uncomfortable yet didn’t mention how we spoke earlier on phone. I found out few days later at worst from my landlord that he wants to stay and work things out and said he is almost caught up(what an outrage!) In July or after our landlord has come into the duplex and seen with his own eyes of the sink totally filled with dirty dishes (all of his and not mine as I clean mine up right away). He also would leave his own trash for awhile while he shared my table and has our shared living room with his own stuff scattered.

    According to my current situation, I have vacated this hellhole of a duplex with giving 30 day advance notice to my landlord around July 21st saying I leaving August 22nd of this month as also because I lost my job in Cleveland, TN. My landlord when hearing this on phone said sorry to hear such and he won’t hold me to hook with rent even as I signed for a year by trying to get a suitable replacement. Two weeks later when I asked for a written reminder of what he said and how in my situation with job loss and moving not to pay anymore, he said on phone “I didn’t say you are off the hook as you are still responsible for remaining months’ rent if there is no suitable replacement.” He said few days back how he has spoken to 1 person interested in serving as replacement, but not yet definite.

    What is the #1 thing I must do in this situation where I clearly do not deserve to pay a penny anymore and how do I hold the landlord and even roommate liable? When finally moving all my stuff out last week I have taken pics of the dirty sink my filthy roommate has created and the living room with all his stuff and even bathroom that not perfect despite bathtub all clean.

    Also, I am the one who paid the full $425 deposit at beginning and the roommate mentioned he couldn’t get the utilities in his name so I believe there was no utilities deposit from him and landlord has said how utilities are in his name.

    Someone from Legal Aid of TN said after speaking to an attorney is that the only option left is for a replacement to take over or besides that the landlord could come after me with two months of rent and possibly take me to court. The landlord hasn’t mentioned the latter part as he just told me he is working on getting a replacement as he better as I have emphasized with him and at worst case if no replacement then I responsible for remaining months’ rent as I don’t deserve to.

    Was wondering if there is anybody in real estate or an authority in real estate I can show pics and information to with my change of job status to to hold my landlord accountable and act with fair force? Wondering if there is a legal mediator rather than attorney that can step in where I don’t have to pay rent anymore and off hook and the landlord can move on well?

    Thanks everybody!

  33. I have a choice between signing a 12 month lease or a 3-6 month lease. 12 month lease rent is $80 cheaper per month. What if i sign the 12 month lease and leave sooner? I just need to stay in this apartment for 4 months. Technically my landlord can’t do anything because they didn’t take a deposit, nor do they have my credit card details, or my passport copy, or anything. I just could just drop the keys off in the box and leave, can’t i? How will they ever chase me?

  34. Joann Sanchez says:

    I have a question I live in Dallas Texas I sign an application to an apartment I paid 245 for the application and administrative and I paid 300 for a broken lease and 300 for enviced and I suppose to move in on the 1st of October but I couldnt I didn’t sign no lease yet. Can they give my apartment away. If so can I get my money back.

  35. Peter SMART says:

    My lease ends on October 30.
    My neighbor has a lease ending November 30. He lived in this apartment for 5 years. He bought a house in August and will turn in the apartment keys on October 10th. The leasing agency said he has to pay rent for November as well (lease breakage).
    Now, I am ready to sign a NEW lease with the landlord for my neighbor’s old apartment at a rate just $80 less than what my neighbor is presently paying. Once the apartment has been inspected/cleaned/renovated I’m sure the apartment can be made ready by November 1st. Perfect.
    Now, if I am paying the rent for November, does my neighbor still need to be charged for November as well? If yes, why?

  36. If I jumped the gun and signed a termination of my lease can I change my mind? It seems more logical to stay and finish my lease then to break it early, but I already signed the termination lease paper 3 days ago.

    Help?

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