How to Terminate Your Lease Without Penalties

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How to Terminate Your Lease

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Terminating a lease can be a necessity. There are a variety of valid reasons you may want to end the agreement made between you and your landlord. Unfortunately, a lease is a legal contract, so ending it before its term is over can be difficult. Let's look at some ways you can terminate a lease with minimal damage.

Legal reasons for terminating a lease

Since leases have terms, if you choose to move out, you will still be responsible for paying rent until the term is complete. But in some instances you are legally allowed to stop paying rent immediately. This is called resiliation. You must inform your landlord, in writing, of the following circumstances to legally resiliate your lease:
  • You are enlisted in active military service
  • You need to live in low-rent housing
  • You are a senior moving to assisted living housing
  • You have become disabled and your current rental can't accommodate your needs
  • A court decides that the landlord isn't holding his end of the lease agreement (the home is uninhabitable)
  • You and/or your children need to move to get away from an abuser 
To send a written termination notice for a lease that has a term over a year, you need to give two months notice. For shorter leases, one month will be fine.

You could be in for a legal battle if you want to prove that the landlord did not maintain your residence properly or violated the lease in some way. Document any problems you have with the landlord or your home. You will need all the proof you can get if you go to court. 
  • Does the landlord harass you unreasonably? Is there any way to document or prove this?
  • Is the landlord failing to address reported problems like leaking water, or malfunctioning plumbing?
  • Is the home a a danger to your health due to mould or other air problems?
  • Is the home's structure in disrepair? Be sure to take photos.
  • Is the landlord failing to provide services that were included in the lease agreement?

Terminating your lease for other reasons

There are several other reasons to terminate your lease that are perfectly valid, but do not excuse you from paying out your rent for the term of the lease.
  • You want to move to a higher priced home
  • You want to move closer to your job
  • You want to buy your own property
  • You want to move in with a significant other or move away from an ex
What can you do if you want to terminate your lease but don't have any legal grounds for doing so? You have three real options:

1. Ask the landlord to end the lease: This may not work very often, but it is worth a try. The landlord has you on the hook for the rest of your rent during your term, so asking him to give that up out of the goodness of his heart may be difficult. That said, if the landlord is confident that he can rent the space to a new tenant right away, he may not mind giving you a break.

2. Sublet your space: Subletting means that you rent out your home to someone else, even though you are renting the place yourself. This allows you to move out of the home while the person living there pays the rent. This person pays you the rent that you then pay the real landlord.

The only drawback to this strategy is that you are responsible for any negligence. They be late on payments, or even damage the property. That is all your legal and financial responsibility. Finding someone to sublet can be a big help, especially if you want to move quickly, but you should be sure that the person isn't a deadbeat or you might compound your problems.

3. Assign the lease: Assigning the lease is like subletting, except you permanently move out and your landlord now needs to take on the new tenant. You may have to give the landlord notice for doing this, and you also need to pay the landlord any expenses associated with a  tenant change--including background checks.

If all else fails, you could just pick up and go, but that makes you vulnerable to a lawsuit. If you must move on short notice, you may want to risk this. Your landlord may not pursue you if he gets a new tenant in a reasonable amount of time. Just keep in mind that a landlord can legally wait ten years to try to collect on owed rent. You may want to try the more legal options to avoid constantly looking over your shoulder when you move.

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on September 16, 2014

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