How To Break A Lease Without Penalty

Whenever you sign a lease, you do so with the intention of fulfilling the terms and conditions mentioned in it. After all, it’s a legally binding contract between a tenant and a landlord. But there may be times when you’re compelled to leave the rental house before the end of the term mentioned in the lease. If you’re wondering how to break a lease agreement without penalty, here are all the things you need to factor in:

Consequences Of Breaking A Lease Agreement

In a perfect world, you’d be able to pack your stuff and back out of your lease agreement right away. But breaking a lease agreement means you’ll be embroiled in legal troubles, and of course, this will entail fines and penalties as well. Here’s how breaking a lease agreement can affect you:

You Can Face A Civil Lawsuit

A lease agreement is a legally binding contract. To put it simply, a contract contains a set of promises made between two parties (in this case, the tenant and the landlord). If you break any of the promises mentioned in the lease agreement, you may be liable for legal damages. While most landlords would want to settle this matter out of court, they can very well file a civil lawsuit against you!

Your Credit Score Takes A Hit

Let’s assume that you were judged guilty of breaking the lease by the court. In this case, you’ll be ordered by the court to pay off the debt you owe your landlord. This court ruling will show up on your credit report for up to seven years. And this means your credit score can go down as much as 50 points!

Getting Loans For Houses Will Be Difficult

This consequence of breaking your lease agreement is a byproduct of the above. A lowered credit score means banks won’t be enthusiastic about lending you money for a rental house or if you’re planning to buy a house for yourself. In case you do manage to find a property, chances are high that you’ll be asked for your old landlord’s reference. Considering you broke the lease with them, we aren’t exactly optimistic about you getting a glowing recommendation! Read our Article on Consequences of Breaking a Lease for more info on this.

See Also: Things need to be Pre-Approved for Mortgage

How To Break Your Lease Agreement

We know you’re here to get out of your lease agreement without paying any penalties. But to be frank, it’s not exactly easy. After all, you breaking the rental agreement means the landlords are likely to incur losses. The penalties for breaking this agreement may be more than one month’s worth of rent/the security deposit. Here are the things to factor in when breaking your lease agreement:

Read Your Lease Agreement Thoroughly

You may want to leave the rental house quickly for whatever reason, but that’s no reason to do things haphazardly. Make sure that you read your lease agreement carefully and check for the early termination clause. Some conditions in the clause may allow you to break the lease without repercussion while others require you to pay the rent until a new tenant is found, irrespective of whether you’re staying there or not. A third condition involves you having to simply pay another month of rent or an amount to buy yourself out of the contract.

Talk To Your Landlord

If your situation is really dire and you have no choice but to break your lease agreement, possibly the best way forward is to talk to your landlord about your Move. Just discuss the issues you’re facing and the reason for you breaking the contract. Keep in mind that breaking a lease agreement is likely to financially affect your landlord, so you can do your bit to find another renter for them.

Yes, your lease agreement may have a termination clause, but if you’ve maintained a good relationship with your landlord, chances are that they will reduce or even waive off the money you owe them! So we highly recommend building a good rapport with the landlord right from the day you sign your lease agreement.

Subletting Or Re-letting The Rental House

If your rental agreement allows, you can consider subletting the rental house. This means the responsibility of finding new tenants for the house falls on you. The new tenants may sign their sublease agreement, but the lease is still under your name. If the new tenants damage the house or delay paying rent, you’ll be legally responsible for it. So make sure you find good tenants!

On the other hand, re-letting or re-renting involves the new renter signing a new rental agreement with the landlord with their own security deposit. While you as a tenant won’t be relieved from paying rent until a new tenant arrives, the landlord is expected to find one as soon as possible.

Subletting or re-letting are ways in which you can make good the losses incurred by your landlord for breaking your lease agreement.

Document All Conversations With Your Landlord

Whatever conversations you have had with your landlord regarding the rental house, make sure you have them all documented. As far as possible, insist on having these conversations via email or letters.

While this is not exactly a step involved in breaking the lease agreement, you can use all this correspondence to build your case if your landlord takes you to court. Proving to the court that you have a legitimate reason to break your agreement means you may not be liable to pay any penalties.

Also See: Giving a Move Out Notice to your Landlord before you Move

Give Your Landlord A Walkthrough Of The House

Your landlord can keep the security deposit if the house is found damaged in any way. To avoid this, don’t be in a hurry to rush out of the door. Rather, give your landlord a thorough walkthrough of the house so that they know the house is in good condition. Again, send pictures/videos as proof and for your documentation!

Seek Professional Help

There are many landlord-tenant laws and regulations and as a layperson, it can be difficult for you to keep track of them. That’s why we highly recommend that you seek legal advice from real estate professionals and attorneys before signing a lease agreement and also before breaking one. This is especially helpful if you feel like you’re being cheated by your landlord. Getting legal advice means you’re fully aware of your rights and you know the correct steps to move forward with.

Legal Reasons To Break A Lease Agreement

Given all the consequences that you can potentially face for breaking a lease agreement, you’re probably now wondering if it’s really worth it. But there are many reasons for doing so. If the below are the reasons why you’re breaking your lease agreement, rest assured that you’re also on the right side of the law. This means you could break your lease agreement without penalty!

Uninhabitable Rental House

Every tenant has the right to a safe and habitable home. It’s the responsibility of the landlord to provide just that to the tenants. The health and safety codes dictate that rental houses must have amenities like running water and plumbing, heating, trash bins, etc.

If the house has issues like unsecured doors, lack of electricity, not safe from fires, etc, it can warrant being an uninhabitable house. Make sure that you do discuss these issues with your landlord – we recommend that you use emails so as to keep a record of these conversations. This is because if you do decide to break your lease and the landlord takes you to court, you have documented proof for your reason to break the lease agreement.

Illegal Rental Space

There are chances that your landlord converted their properties into rental units illegally. These could include garages, commercial spaces, or basements. In case you weren’t aware of the illegality of the property before signing the lease and do now, you can break the lease agreement.

Landlord Violates Your Privacy

Yes, the property you’ve rented is owned by the landlord. But as a renter, you’re entitled to your own privacy in the rented property. A landlord cannot just barge in the rented house according to their wish, whenever they like. In fact, a landlord has to provide at least a 24-hour notice before arriving. They can then enter the house for inspection, make repairs, or show the house to prospective tenants.

If the landlord has a tendency to make unannounced visits too often, you can take them to court and also break your lease agreement without penalty.

Domestic Violence

Many state laws prevent the landlord from penalizing a tenant, who is a victim of domestic violence, for breaking the lease agreement. While the laws can vary from state to state, typically, the violence by the partner must have happened within three to six months. Also, the tenant can inform the landlord of the possibility of violence happening in the future.

Of course, all this communication needs to be documented. The landlord may also require proof of domestic violence, which can include court orders, medical reports, and police reports. For breaking a lease agreement on the grounds of domestic violence, the tenant owes rent only until the termination date of the agreement. The landlord can sue the perpetrator of said violence for damages.

Termination Due To Military Service

Say you’re a renter who entered active military service after signing a lease agreement. You’ll most likely be given a permanent change of station (PCS) order. In such cases, you’re legally entitled to break your lease agreement without any penalties. You and your family will be protected under The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

For this, send a letter for the intent to vacate, along with your PCS order, to your landlord. Your tenancy will be terminated based on the nature of your contract, and the landlord cannot withhold your security deposit for this. You can read our Article on PCS Tips for military families.

Medical Emergencies

You can break your rental agreement in case of medical emergencies like illnesses, accidents, etc. It’s possible that you won’t be able to live independently and may have to move. In such cases, you’ll need to provide your landlord with a letter from your doctor or the court. You should be able to break your lease agreement within 30 to 60 days. Read your lease agreement carefully to find the notice period to give your landlord.

Summing Up

By being aware of the procedures involved in it and the circumstances in which you can break your lease agreement without penalty will definitely help you out. Again, we’ll remind you that each lease agreement is different and that’s why you need to read it thoroughly and be up-to-date with the landlord-tenant laws in your state.

FAQs On Breaking A Lease Agreement Without Penalty

How Can I Break My Lease Without Being Penalized?

You can break your lease without being penalized for the following reasons:

  • The house is uninhabitable.
  • The house is illegal.
  • The landlord turns up unannounced often, violating your privacy.
  • You’re a victim of domestic violence on the property.
  • You’re in the military and entering active duty.
  • You have a medical emergency.

How Can I Avoid Breaking My Lease Fees?

There are a few ways to avoid having to pay your lease fees when you break an agreement. Here’s how:

  • Communicate with your landlord about your reasons to leave. Being honest helps, and you could negotiate an agreement favorable to you both!
  • Offer to find another renter for the house or sublet it.
  • Read the terms of the lease agreement and clearly understand the termination clause.
  • Be updated with the landlord-tenant laws of your state. It’s possible that you’re on the right side of the law here.

What Is An Early Termination Fee?

An early termination fee is a fine that’s levied against a person when they break the terms of a long-term contract. This condition is clearly mentioned in the contract itself and ensures that all parties involved in the contract follow the rules mentioned in it.

What Makes A Lease Null And Void?

A lease is considered to be null and void when one is forced to sign it and the lease itself is fraudulent. For example, if you rent a place that’s actually illegal, the contract lease can be null and void, so you won’t have to pay the termination fee.

See Also: Things to know about home Evicition | Best Professional Moving Companies | Obligations and Rights of Tenants and Landlords | Procedure to Renew a Rental Lease

Written by


Rostislav Shetman is the founder of 9Kilo Moving. He has been in the moving and relocation industry for more than 25 years, making him an expert in his field. Rostislav started as a helper, dispatcher and driver and has worked his way up to owning his own company. He takes great pride in his work and enjoys helping people relocate across the United States of America. When he's not working, Rostislav enjoys spending time with his family and friends. They are the light of his life and bring him happiness every day.