How Can I Terminate My Lease Early?
Are you a tenant with a lease in place but for some reason, you need to end it sooner than the current expiration date? Maybe your income has changed, and you cannot afford it. You’re in a new relationship and want a bigger space or need to relocate for a job. Whatever the reason, you need to move. What do you do?
- Check your lease
Are you sure you’re in a lease? After the initial lease term, if you and the landlord didn’t agree to renew for another period, then you may just have a month-to-month lease in place that either party
can end with notice and without any penalty.
Most leases should have a clause stipulating what happens when the tenant needs to terminate it early. Sometimes the information is missing or vague, and you’ll need to ask your landlord or property manager for more details.
- Why are you terminating your lease early?
Assuming you do a lease and aren’t month-to-month, why you’re terminating may also affect if there is a penalty. For example, in most states, if you’re in the military and get orders to move, you still need to give notice, but the landlord needs to let you out of the remaining time.
Another reason for terminating where penalties might be waived by law is if you’re a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or unlawful harassment. If one of these situations applies to you, then you may need to provide a police report to your landlord or property manager, and you could be let out of the lease without penalty.
An early lease termination penalty will most likely apply for other common reasons for terminating a lease early,
such as a job transfer, job loss, end of a relationship, roommate issues, or just wanting to live in a different property. Landlords will typically be willing to work with you since most do not want a tenant who cannot pay rent at the property.
Maybe a maintenance issue at the property makes it uninhabitable, so you cannot live there. In this scenario, you must report the problem to the landlord or property manager first so they have an opportunity to fix it. If it’s apparent that it cannot be resolved within a specific timeframe (depending on your state, but it could be as much as 60-days), then the landlord must let you out of the lease without a penalty. An example of this will be if the house burns down.
- Communicate with your landlord or property manager
The sooner you make them aware, the better. Sometimes, circumstances will work out in your favor, and the landlord will mutually agree to end the lease early without penalty. Maybe they want to sell or move back in and finish it earlier. If so, make sure that the new end date and changes (if any) to penalty fees are written, everyone signs (get a copy), and you’re good to go.
What is an early termination fee?
Let’s say that is not the case. If the landlord doesn’t want to end the lease early and the reason you’re moving doesn’t waive any penalties, most likely, there is an early termination fee that you are responsible for paying. The cost is in addition to any move fees required by the homeowner association and does not release you from leaving the place in clean condition. You are still responsible for everything you typically do and must pay for at the end of the lease.
The early termination fee typically gets applied to expenses/time the landlord incurs when trying to find a new tenant and for lost rental income after you move out and stop paying rent and before a new tenant moves in. The termination fee may be a fixed amount (i.e., equal to two months’ rent) or a fixed amount plus rent until a new tenant starts a lease and begins paying rent.
The most important thing is reading your lease before signing it. So you know what you agree to, and if the situation arises, you communicate what’s happening as soon as possible with your landlord or property manager so they can assist you with the next steps. The sooner the rental is marketed, and a replacement tenant is found, the shorter the vacancy period, which may lower your early lease termination fee.
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