Giving Notice or Breaking Your Lease
Although you pay rent monthly, your lease obligates you to cover the entire term of whatever rental period you agreed to. So if you end your lease six months early, you may owe six times your monthly rent — or more if other fees are involved. Remember that breaking a lease is easy; paying the steep penalties may not be. Here are a few ways to help you and your landlord navigate this process amicably.

Give advance notice

If you’re not renewing the lease, you typically need to provide at least 30 day’s notice to the landlord before the contract ends. Check your lease to make sure, because it may require more notice (60 or 90 days). Always give notice to vacate in written form. These letter templates can help you make sure you include all the important details. Short-term rentals covered under a month-to-month rental agreement likely have different notice terms, which should be included in the contract.

Know the law

Local, state and federal laws protect both renters and landlords, and they usually vary depending on where you live. Federal law protects individuals who enter active military service, while each state has its own specific laws to protect tenants in special circumstances. Some states also require landlords to make reasonable efforts to find another renter for your unit, regardless of why you have to break the lease. In these cases, you’ll want to consult an expert to determine your rights and responsibilities. Larger metropolitan areas often have tenants’ unions that can help renters navigate such disputes. These organizations can also help if your landlord doesn’t actively try to find a new renter, tries to charge you more money than what is legal or fails to answer your inquiries.

Be prepared to pay or provide a solution

If your reason for breaking the lease is not protected by the law, check your lease to determine exactly what it will cost you. Likely, you’ll have to pay a steep fee and/or cover the monthly rental cost during your remaining agreement period. You probably won’t get your security deposit back either. Consult with your property manager to see if you can come up with a solution. Remember that breaking a lease creates a financial burden for both the renter and the landlord, so both parties have an interest in efficiently resolving things. Look for creative alternatives that can mitigate costs on both sides. For example, if your agreement allows it, offer to find someone to sublet or rent with a new lease. But remember: Even though most subletters sign their own agreements, the actual lease will still be under your name, making you legally liable for any damage. Check here for a sample request-to-sublet letter.

Document everything

Get every conversation about breaking your lease in writing. Email is the easiest way to document, but if you have face-to-face or phone interactions, take notes and email your landlord to confirm the details. This may help avoid miscommunication between parties or bolster your case should the issue escalate.

Seek expert legal advice

Navigating federal, state and local laws can be challenging on your own. If you think you have a case and need advice, you may need to consult a legal expert who specializes in tenant rights.