What Happens When You Break a Lease?

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Updated July 8, 2020
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Whether you are renting month-to-month, 6 months, or a year — you are going to have to sign a lease when you move into your apartment A lease is a legally binding contract between you, the tenant, and your landlord or property manager. A lease benefits everyone and ensures both you and your landlord uphold their ends of the agreement. However, sometimes circumstances lead to a tenant having to break a lease agreement, which comes with its own set of consequences and legal hoops to manage. We always recommend fulfilling your lease until the end, but if it’s unavoidable, here’s what happens when you break the lease early.

What Happens When You Break a Lease?

If you must break your lease, there are some important things to know before making that decision. Lease terms and agreements obviously vary by location and property management company. But, there are a few general rules that are likely similar across the board. In our case, we have a few specifics in terms of how we handle lease termination. They include;

  1. If you are looking to terminate your lease, it’s always going to be best to follow the terms of your lease to avoid sullying your rental history.
  2. Bigos requires a cancellation fee to be paid prior to the acceptance of lease termination, and the deposit is forfeited automatically. This fee and the deposit is intended to compensate your landlord for having to pay marketing costs and vacancy they weren’t expecting until lease-end.
  3. If this is your first lease term at the property, and you received a special move-in special, the amount must be paid back. i.e. “First month FREE if you sign a year-lease in August.” That free month was based on fulfilling a year-long lease agreement but is no longer valid if that lease is terminated before the end of the year.
  4. Two full calendar months’ notice is required to vacate.
  5. No subleasing allowed. Please refer any interested parties to sign their own lease with us.
  6. If you are in the last two months of your lease, we will release you from financial obligation if we can re-rent your apartment prior to the end of your lease. Tenants may want to help find a tenant in this instance, just assure them their referrals will go through the same procedure for a new tenant lease.

You definitely want to keep your good standing for future rentals and to be able to rent from the same property management company again down the line if you need to. So, if you follow these steps as you approach terminating your lease early, you should be in a good shape with us as your property managers, and yourself as a tenant.

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Reasons Why a Tenant Might Break a Lease

There are many reasons why a tenant may need to break their lease early. Some are actually qualified for termination without penalty, but others may just be out of their control. In that case, the lease termination will fall under the rules we’ve listed above. So what are some of the reasons why a tenant may decide or need, to leave earlier than intended?

Qualifying Reasons to Break a Lease

Military Deployment or Active Duty

Tenants who serve in the military are protected from any penalty under the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act. If they are called into duty or must relocate due to military reasons, they can break a lease without being penalized. They will just need to provide a copy of their written orders or a letter from their commanding officer along with their official notice to vacate.

Domestic Violence or Other Personal Safety Matters

Tenants are allowed to break their lease without penalty if they have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, or other personal safety issues. Along with a written notice to vacate, the tenant must include a copy of their protection order, police report, or signed affidavit with details that they were a victim of domestic violence or assault, or other. This can help protect the landlords as well in the case that the involved parties visit the property against the court order.

Medical Reasons or Need

One of the more common reasons for someone to have to leave their apartment unexpectedly is for a medical reason. If a tenant can no longer live on their own or must go to a rehab or long-term care facility, they may be able to get a doctor or court-order note to release them from their lease without penalty. This can be something already included in some rental agreements, but tenants should check for that.

The Landlord or Property Manager Does Not Fulfill Their Duties

The rental agreement is not just binding for the tenants to follow the rules and necessities of their role, but also for the landlords or accompanying property management company. If a landlord does not follow the guidelines laid out in the agreements, such as with maintenance requests, or keeping a clean and safe environment for tenants, lease breakage is an option. It’s a good idea to read up on your renter’s rights both as they’re laid out in the forms you’ve signed, but also how they apply in your state. Here is a handy map that displays all the laws in regards to breaking a lease in your state.

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Personal Reasons to Break a Lease

Now of course the reasons why a tenant may need to break their lease are not always against their control, but there are situations that make it difficult to stay in their lease for personal reasons. Unfortunately, these instances aren’t usually protected under the law to avoid a penalty, and tenants who have to leave early need to be willing to forfeit their security deposit as well as make sure to have their notice to vacate to the landlord with their required 60 days, 30 days, or whatever the agreed-upon time frame is.

Job Relocation

One of the biggest reasons someone may have to move is due to a job relocation. Whether against their control, or if they decide to take a job elsewhere, this can complicate things as they attempt to find a new place in a new city, while also having to manage their current apartment. They will, of course, have to submit a notice to vacate within the required 60 days. This may be a good opportunity for them to help find a new tenant in order to be released from paying rent on the unit for the remainder of their agreement.

Buying a House

A lot of people only live in apartments temporarily while they build their careers, save money, and prepare to buy a house. When you’re in the market for a house, you can plan as much as possible, but sometimes lining it up with your lease’s end can be tough. Often times, if you work with your landlord, you could pay month-to-month after your initial agreement is up, which can help as you continue to search for your forever home. But when it comes to house hunting sometimes if the right house pops up, you just have to pounce on it and not let it slip through their fingers. This can mean buying a house and preparing to move before your lease is up. As long as tenants follow the rules for breaking a lease, they should remain in good standing.

Moving in With a Partner

Depending on the penalties associated with termination, breaking your lease to move in with a partner or new spouse may or may not be worth it. If the cost savings of moving in together outweigh the penalties or rent currently being paid on your own is substantial — then go for it! Your landlord may recommend living out the rest of your lease, or ask if you can help find someone to rent your unit to save you from any financial obligation of early termination.

No matter the reason, if you need to break your lease make sure you communicate with your landlord, read through your initial agreements, and follow the guidelines for sending your notice to vacate and continue paying your rent throughout the length of your lease unless otherwise discussed. At Bigos, we understand that things happen, and appreciate our tenants working with us as they transition out of our existing arrangement. To find a new apartment, or transfer apartments, check out our available listings or give us a call for more information and to schedule a walk-through!

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