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Burning Questions

How to Break a Lease

A lease is a binding legal contract between the landlord and tenant that binds the tenant to occupy the property for the term of the lease.

Though almost all leases allow the tenant to pay on a monthly basis, the arrangement is legally binding for the term. If you break a lease without legal ground to do so, you may have to pay rent for the remaining months, worsen your credit score, or even be subject to legal trouble from your landlord.

However, your landlord may also be sympathetic to your circumstances and not penalize you at all. It really depends on the landlord. Follow these steps and considerations to be as successful as possible at breaking your lease with no issues from your landlord.

Read the Lease Agreement

If you want to break your lease early, the very first thing you should do is read the lease agreement you signed. This is where you will find the specifics on how to break the lease and what fees will be applicable.

lease agreement

You’ll likely have to give your landlord advanced notice of your intention to break the lease. You may also be subject to additional fees or loss of your security deposit. Sometimes the penalties may seem harsh, but it is always better than getting in legal trouble.

Be Transparent with Your Landlord

discussion with landlord

If you’ve decided you need to break your lease, you need to have a discussion with your landlord. Being upfront and honest as soon as possible will yield the best outcome. It’s important to stay on good terms with them, and follow their guidelines for the early lease termination process.

Try to Find a Replacement Renter

new tenant signing a new lease

Something that will be super helpful to both you and your landlord is to find someone to replace you. This way, the landlord can sublet the apartment for the rest of your lease term or begin a new lease right away. If they don’t lose any income, they are much less likely to penalize you for breaking the lease.

Make an Offer

make an offer

Some leases require multiple months’ rent and forfeiture of your security deposit if you decide to terminate the lease early. It may be worth it to take the loss if circumstances don’t give you any other choices. Check with your landlord and see if you can make a deal. Perhaps they’re willing to knock a month’s rent off of the penalty, especially if you’re facing extenuating circumstances.

Consider Finding Support


If you’re facing difficult circumstances and your landlord isn’t being amicable, you may want to consider reaching out to a tenant union, local housing authority, consumer protection agency, or even a lawyer. Landlords must fulfill their obligations to providing decent, livable housing.

Maintain a Paper Trail, and Get Everything in Writing

paper trail

Be sure to keep a paper trail of the entire process. From the lease agreement, to the notice of intent to vacate, to payment receipts. This will protect you and ensure that your landlord can’t come after you.

Do a Walk-Through of the Apartment with Your Landlord


Prior to vacating, you should do a walkthrough of the apartment with your landlord and document the condition of everything on paper. This will reassure the landlord of the condition you’re leaving their apartment in, and keep you protected from any inaccuracies if the landlord tries to seek compensation from you down the line.

When Is It Legally Permissible to Break a Lease Early?

military personnel

If the living space has any type of negative effect on your safety or health, you may be able to break the lease early without legal ramifications. Here are some cases where early termination of a lease may be permissible:

Property not inhabitable

Landlords must fulfill their lease obligations by providing safe, livable and reasonable conditions for their tenants. The Warranty of Habitability is a legal doctrine that requires landlords to keep living spaces in reasonable conditions. It is written into law in most states and jurisdictions.

Rental is in a legal gray area

If the apartment you’re living in isn’t actually legal, the lease agreement cannot be enforced. Be sure to check your state’s laws around apartments and landlords. If you’re living in a building that does not meet local requirements, you may be under no obligation to stay.

Domestic Violence

If the tenant is a victim of domestic violence, they are legally entitled to break the lease in most states. Unfortunately, the tenant must have documentation that proves the domestic violence is legitimate and was recent. This includes protection orders, police reports, or written affidavits.

Armed services obligations

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act gives military members a wide range of legal protections, including the legal right to break a lease due to relocation orders. They must be relocating for at least 90 days for this to apply.

Landlord enters property without notice

Landlords are allowed to enter their property, but only with advanced notice. They may need to make a repair, inspect the property, or show it to potential tenants. However, if the landlord enters the property without advanced notice, the tenant may obtain a court order directing the landlord to stop. If this gets broken, the tenant can break the lease.

Find a New Place to Live

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Once you have had the discussion with your landlord and come to some type of agreement, the next step is to find a new place to live. You’re going to need a team of professional, dependable movers to help you get there. Metropolis Moving has gained a reputation for being one of New York City’s most reliable, trustworthy movers. Get a quote today, and you’ll be one step closer to planning your move.

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