When you sign a lease, you are signing a contract where you agree to pay for a specific apartment unit for a specified duration. Although you pay rent each month, you are most likely not signing a month to month lease, rather a fixed-term lease. Upon completion of the fixed-term, your landlord may give you the option to switch to a month-to-month lease. Until the fixed-term lease is completed, you are obligated to pay, and therefore live, in the apartment unit. Even if you have a worthy cause to break the lease, it is difficult to break the lease without having to pay a penalty fee.
Causes for Penalization
Whenever you break a lease, you are subject to penalization. A lease is a legal contract, and consequences for breaking a contract are to be expected. If you have to break the lease, the only thing you can really do is perform damage control; speak to your landlord and attempt to decrease the penalty as much as possible for breaking the lease.
When Not to Expect Penalization
There are few ways to break the lease where you should not expect to be penalized. Should you have to break the lease, let you landlord know as soon as possible, more notice is always better than less. In the event your apartment has been damaged to where you cannot inhabit it, due to natural causes or theft, you will not have to pay a penalty. Furthermore, if you serve in the military and get deployed, you will not face penalization. Depending on where you live, if you end up hospitalized or must move into an assisted living establishment, you may not have to pay a penalty. As state statute varies, it is critical you research your own state to know for sure.
When You Might Expect Penalization
Should you landlord fail to uphold their end of the lease, such as not maintaining the quality of the apartment unit, not notifying you before they arrive to work on the apartment, or simply showing up unannounced to “check on the apartment,” you can break your lease. While these reasons are valid, your landlord may still try to penalize you so they can make their money. Should any of these reasons by why you want to break the lease, you will need to document and record everything correctly so when you go to court, your argument will be upheld and you will be able to win your case.
When to Expect Penalization
More often than not, an individual chooses to break the lease for justifiable reasons, however, that does not mean they are exempt from penalization. Most people have to break their lease due to accepting a new job that requires them to move, perhaps they get married or have kids, or they adopt a pet they didn’t realize they weren’t allowed to have. After you have notified your landlord, see if you can find someone to take over the unit for you. If you can tell your landlord you’re breaking the lease, but you’ve found someone to take over the unit, you’re less likely to be penalized. Landlords are required by law to find new tenants after you tell them you’re leaving. You may get lucky and only have to continue paying them rent for a month or two until the next tenant moves in.