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How to Break a Lease

Breaking a lease usually means paying between one and two months of rent as a penalty. To avoid fees and stress, try these tips.

When people imagine breaking a lease they are usually thinking of a lease termination. The lease contract becomes null and void, you get entirely released from any and all obligations associated with it and the unit goes back on the market as a traditional lease.

If your landlord allows this, they will usually require you to pay a penalty fee of between one and three months rent. You may be able to negotiate your way out of this fee or at lease drastically reduce it - if you can make a strong case.

  1. If you have a good story, tell it

    Some landlords will be understanding if something has happened in your life that is beyond your control. Your lease might even have a term stating that you get an out for certain life emergencies.

    If the reason you're leaving has anything to do with your ability to pay the rent, like a job loss, they may also be understanding.

  2. Check for a potential rent increase

    Why would your landlord be financially interested in letting you out of the lease early? If they could earn more rent right away. Gather the data to make your case by checking listings in the same area.

    Comparable listings might not be enough. You can even market the unit yourself by creating a listing and sending them documentation of the amount of leads you got for which rent price. Make sure to list it for a higher price than what you are paying.

  3. Understand how landlords manage inventory

    Landlords like leases to come up for renewal in the busiest rental seasons when there is the most demand. This is usually between May and September, when it's warm and more people want to move. If you’re trying to terminate your lease in these months then simply point out that this could be a fortunate turn of events for your landlord, and hopefully they will agree and let you off.

Next Steps

Trying to negotiate and terminate your lease without losing thousands of dollars is worth a shot, but if you're sure you want to save this money you should be prepared to actually find a new tenant, qualify them and sublet or assign to them.

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