How to Break a Lease on an Apartment
SmartFinancial Offers Unbiased, Fact-based Information. Our fact-checked articles are intended to educate insurance shoppers so they can make the right buying decisions. Learn More
It is not an easy situation. You want out of your lease and you don’t wish to pay the remaining months rent. Provide your landlord with as much notice as possible and write a letter explaining why you need to leave your lease early. Be honest and sincere in your letter. Landlords in most states must make reasonable efforts to re-rent the rental unit when a tenant breaks a lease instead of charging the tenant for the total remaining rent due on a lease. But there is a good chance you’ll lose your security deposit.
In addition, tenant-friendly housing leases may have early termination clauses that allow tenants to break leases. You still need to give plenty of notice, 30 to 60 days, and you may need to provide documentation such as an official job offer letter but you won’t be on the hook for the remaining months rent on a lease. These early termination clauses may include specific situations such as job relocation, job loss and divorce. Let’s take a closer look at each of these scenarios.
Job Relocation. A job relocation would cover a move brought on by your current or a new employer. So if you land a brand-new job is too far for a commute or is on the other side of the country you’ll be able to leave your lease through the early termination clause. Be prepared to share the job offer letter with your landlord. And then make plans for exiting your lease.
Job Loss. If you have a severe financial hardship due to unexpected job loss, you may be able to break your lease through an early termination clause. Discuss the details with your landlord. Want to stay in the apartment? Ask your landlord about a deferred payment plan. Deferring a payment for even a month could get you back on your feet financially. So speak honestly with your landlord about your financial situation.
Divorce. If your divorce causes you financial hardship or the need to relocate you may be able to break a lease through an early termination clause. Check with your landlord. If one spouse is staying in the rental unit, have a lawyer draft a lease transfer agreement so all the tenants rights and obligations would fall on the remaining spouse.
How to Leave a Lease Without Penalty
Here are four instances where a renter could break a lease without penalty.
Relief for Armed Services Members. The federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows active-duty and uniformed service members to break housing leases without penalty. This protection applies to all regular armed forces branches such as the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines and active-duty Coast Guard members and National Guard members and reservists who are called to active duty. Under SCRA, service members have 30 days to vacate the apartment after the last monthly payment’s due date.
The Apartment Gets Damaged. Many states allow renters to break their leases without penalty if the rental unit becomes “inhabitable” because of circumstances beyond the renter’s control. This could be a natural disaster or a criminal act that destroys the apartment. If either of these unfortunate events happen to you, discuss exiting the lease with your landlord as soon as possible.
You Are a Victim of Domestic Violence. Many states allow domestic violence victims to break leases without penalty. If this applies to you, you may need to get a court-issued protective order to prove that you are a victim of domestic violence. So get this important court order and share it with your landlord. You want to move to a safe place to live as soon as possible.
You Have a Health Crisis. If you have a severe physical or mental health issue that makes you unable to live independently, you may qualify to have your lease end early without penalty. Some states have age restrictions for this type of lease-breaking arrangement. For example, you may need to be 60 years or older. In most states, you’ll need to give at least 30 days of notice and have a note from a licensed physician.
Get Personalized Renters Insurance Quotes Here
What if Your Landlord Doesn’t Agree to Break the Lease
What happens if a landlord doesn’t agree to let you out of a lease early? You may be liable for paying the rent on the remaining months of the lease. This could be a lot of money. Can your savings take that kind of hit? If not, you may want to consider staying in the lease until the very end. Sometimes, the financial costs are just too high to leave a lease if your landlord presses you for the remaining months’ rent. So take a close look at the leasing agreement. Are you liable for all the remaining months rent if you should break your lease? How much would that be? Can you handle paying it? What about in a couple of months? Weigh the potential financial consequences of breaking a lease carefully. If you are leaving to move for a new job, ask about working from home until your lease is up. That way you get the best of both worlds, a new job and a worry-free move when your lease is up.
What to Do When Your Landlord Doesn’t Follow the Rules
A landlord must give you 24 hours notice before the landlord has the right to enter your apartment. In addition, a landlord must have a legal right to enter the apartment such as to inspect the unit, make repairs or show the unit to prospective new tenants.
As a renter, you may have the right to break the lease if a landlord enters your apartment unit for reasons that aren’t legally allowed, makes attempts to enter your apartment without proper notice or harasses you.
In this scenario, you would need to get a court order to get your landlord to stop this behavior. If the landlord should violate the court order and refuses to change behavior, you as the renter may provide notice that you are terminating the lease. It is not an easy way to leave, but you do have the right to leave a lease if a landlord isn’t following the rules.
Get Personalized Renters Insurance Quotes Here
Protect Your New Apartment with Renters Insurance
Moving to a new apartment? Even if is not required, it's important to protect your belongings with renters insurance. Renters insurance covers damages and losses to your possessions from natural disasters such as hail, fire, rain, and wind storms such as hurricanes. You might not realize it but renters insurance also gives you personal liability protection for guests in your apartment or townhouse. Let’s say you have a party and someone slips on a wet floor. You’d be covered for the liability with renters insurance. Your renters insurance also covers items stolen from your apartment or townhome. So you’re protected should a burglary occur in your new place. If you have a dog and it bites a guest, you’ll be covered for the damages too.
What types of belongings are covered with renters insurance? Clothing, televisions and other electronic equipment, phones, jewelry, computers, bicycles, furniture and books are all covered under renters insurance, up to your policy limit. So choose a policy limit that will cover the costs of replacing your belongings. Do you need $10,000 of coverage? Is that enough to cover costs should damages occur? Take inventory of your possessions and see.
Once you know how much renters insurance that you need, you’re ready to go shopping for insurance. The best way to get a good deal on renters insurance is to compare offers from several different insurance companies. SmartFinancial makes this easy to do. With SmartFinancial’s help you’ll be comparing renters insurance offers from companies in your area in no time. SmartFinancial has access to more than 200 insurance companies so you are bound to find the renters insurance coverage and price that you are looking for.
You can choose to pay for your renters insurance policy every month, every six months, or once a year. Your premium will be lower if you pay for your policy just once a year. So choose this option if you have the cash. Choosing monthly payments results in the most expensive premium. And paying once every six months falls in the middle for premium costs. So check your budget and choose the payment plan that works for you.