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

    • I agree, that’s definitely the simplest way to solve the problem. I wish it
      was always that easy!

      • Hi i have a question if im in a lease agreement and dont want to break my lease agreement can i move in a small place in the same complex with out breaking my lease ?thats cheaper rent for me.

  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?

  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?


  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?

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