Even though you have the right to break your lease, it doesn’t always mean it’s cheap or easy. Here’s how to do it the smart way.

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Rentals provide a safe, affordable, and comfortable home without the additional burden of taxes, maintenance, etc. But with the cost of living increasing across the United States, those who can are opting to buy homes, move back in with their parents, or try a nomadic lifestyle

Any of these options typically means that these individuals need to break their current lease. This may sound like a tedious and somewhat scary task, but it’s not. The landlord/tenant relationship is purely transactional. As long as you follow the statements in your lease and are honest with your landlord, things will work in your favor. 

Why Might a Tenant Break Their Lease Early?

There are many reasons why you may have to break your lease early, whether it may be voluntary or not. Even though you have a renter’s right to break your lease, it doesn’t always mean it’s cheap or reasonable. There is a smart way to break your lease, and it starts with reading your lease from start to finish. 

How to Break Your Lease- The Right Way

A few common reasons people might break their leases early include:

1. Housing market. 

Housing and rent prices are on the rise. Whether renters are looking to move back home, buy their own house, or rent a cheaper place, the housing market has impacted tenants breaking their leases. 

2. Issues with the landlord/tenants/building. 

If there are personal conflicts between the landlord or tenants, it can make anyone’s living situation more complicated. You may not know about these conflicts before you start renting, and for some, it’s tolerable for a while, but it’s not sustainable. Poor maintenance and landlords that are slow to respond to maintenance issues can also lead to tenants wanting to break their lease to find a more responsive property manager. 

“Unfortunately, I had to break my lease in order to move into the home I purchased for my family. The property management company I was renting from had strict penalties for breaking a lease early. I needed to pay full rent until a new tenant was found, and I had to pay a penalty something like $2,000, which was basically my security deposit. It wasn’t the best outcome, but it also wasn’t the worst.” – Anonymous 

3. Job changes. 

If you accept a new job, there are usually clauses in your lease that mention whether or not you can break your lease without penalty or additional fees. For example, your landlord may allow you to break your lease if the job is more than 50 miles from your current location. Unfortunately, this doesn’t typically help if you are laid off or experience another type of involuntary job change. 

4. Family changes. 

Moving in with a partner or having a child are two reasons you may want to break your lease. Changes in relationship status are a little less of a concern for landlords, so you may have to pay additional lease fees if you wish to move in or move out before your predetermined lease date. If your family is growing, you’ll have to see if there are any capacity issues depending on how many bedrooms are in your house or apartment.

5. Medical reasons. 

Certain situations tend to be covered in a lease agreement regarding medical conditions. But if you have a chronic illness, it may be a good idea to double-check your lease upon signing to ensure you’re protected in case you need to break your lease early. If something unexpected happens, be as communicative with your landlord as possible with the hope they can accommodate you. 


How to Break Your Lease Early: Helpful Tips & Guidelines

Some reasons for breaking leases are more severe than others, and some will have appropriate laws that protect tenants. If you must break your lease, there is a smart way to do it. And with proper planning, you can come out unscathed. 

So if you’re looking the best way to legally break your lease early, here are a few things to consider:

1. Understand the potential breaking lease fees associated with it. 

Each state is different, so it’s essential to read up on recent laws in addition to looking through your current lease. Some reasons for breaking a lease with no fees or penalties include an unsafe environment, domestic violence, or being called to military service. If your motivation doesn’t fall within the protection of the law, you may be subject to financial penalties. 

For example, you may end up paying rent until a new tenant is found, sacrificing your security deposit. Or, you may need to pay a percentage of your remaining rent through the end of your lease. If this is the case, the sooner you know you’ll be breaking your lease, the more time you’ll have to save the appropriate funds. In some cases, people are subject to such serious fees or have to conclude that breaking your lease and moving may not be in the cards right now. 

2. Opt-out clause. 

If you need to break your lease early, check your lease for an opt-out clause. This clause gives the tenant the option to terminate the remainder of the lease, but it also ensures that the landlord is reimbursed for the time and money required to find a replacement renter. It may include a breaking lease fee, but there are likely fewer repercussions if you follow the stipulations within the clause. 

3. Communicate with your landlord.

We’re all human. Talk to your property manager or landlord before making any serious moves or new decisions about your living situation. Hopefully, they do what they can to help you move into your next life phase as stress-free as possible. Remember: leases protect both you and your landlord. The sooner they know about your situation, the sooner they can be proactive in finding a new tenant to take over the lease. 

4. Help find your landlord a new tenant. 

In the best situations, if you can help your landlord find a new tenant, they’ll appreciate it! Once they know someone will provide them with the income they’re losing when you leave, they may let you “off the hook.” Plus, you may have some family or friends looking for a new place. Who knows, your apartment might be the perfect fit for them! 

5. Consider subletting. 

Subletting is popular in many cities, and it is a fantastic solution to keep you lease until it’s over. Double-check your lease for any policies against subletting. If not, you’re good to go in collecting a majority of your rent for the remainder of your lease. This option saves many people money when breaking a lease or temporarily living elsewhere for the remainder of their lease. 


An anonymous renter says, “I would consider myself a “lucky one. I was leasing from a private landlord and a property her daughter was renting came available that was a better fit for my family. I told her about the situation and we worked together to find a new tenant for a targeted move-out/move-in date.” Luckily, this renter did not have to pay any penalties, and the was seamless from one apartment to another.

Use These Helpful Tips if You Need to Break Your Lease

It can feel difficult to break your lease with your landlord, but standing up for yourself and your needs is important. It’s hard to say what will happen in your exact situation, but consult an attorney if you have any pressing questions. If you ask around your friends and family or even a local real estate agent, they’ll likely be happy to answer your questions free of charge. 

In the end, the worst-case scenario that could come from breaking your lease is that you will owe some lease breaking penalty fees. But the sooner you know this, you’ll be able to enact a savings plan for your move-out date.

About the Authors

Emily Malkowski

Emily Malkowski is a writer and SEO strategist living in Buffalo, New York. Having graduated from University at Buffalo with a Bachelor's degree in Communications, her work has appeared in outlets like The American Prospect, Roadtrippers Magazine, Step Out Buffalo, and more.

Marie Rachelle

Marie Rachelle is a local entrepreneur, marketing consultant, and writer based in Buffalo, NY. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Bryant & Stratton College, and has been writing professionally for nearly a decade. Her work can be found and followed in Buffalo Home Magazine, Step Out Buffalo Business, Freelancer's Union, Freelancing Females, and more.

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