Landlord/Tenant Law

How to End a Residential Lease Early

Most written residential leases are in effect for a set amount of time such as one year. From a landlord’s perspective this is advantageous because the landlord does not have to think about finding another tenant during the lease term. However, while a tenant may intend to remain in the dwelling for the duration described in the lease, circumstances might change. For either professional or personal reasons, the tenant may wish to break the lease in order to relocate to a new location.
The first thing that you should do if you have a written lease that you wish to end prior to the end of the lease term is to carefully review the lease. Your responsibilities to the landlord for ending the lease term early will be governed by the written lease.
Some leases have provisions for early terminations that allow the tenant to end the lease early but require the tenant to pay a fee for leaving and ceasing to pay rent prior to the end of the agreed upon lease term. Some leases will allow early termination for any reason as long as the tenant pays the required fees. Other leases only allow early termination in certain situations such as being called to active duty military service or if the tenant needs medical treatment in a different location.
A lease might also allow the tenant to sublet the apartment to another tenant and provide specific provisions on how that may be done. It is the tenant’s responsibility to find someone else to sublet the apartment and it is the tenant’s responsibility to make sure that the rent is paid. However, it is to both the tenant and the landlord’s advantage to make sure that there is subletter in place who can pay the rent for the duration of the lease.
Sometimes, a tenant might wish to break the lease not because of he or she is relocating but because there have been problems with the dwelling that remain unresolved by the landlord. Different states have different laws about whether a tenant can withhold rent if a landlord fails to make necessary repairs after proper notice has been provided by the tenant to the landlord about the need for such repairs. If you wish to break the lease because the dwelling is not habitable it is important that you keep good documentation of all of the repairs that need to be done. That means that you should take pictures of any items that need repair, copies of any correspondence that you have with the landlord with regard to the problems and potential repairs and copies of any work orders for requested repairs.
If you think that your landlord is unlikely to agree to an early termination of your lease or to a subletting arrangement then it might be useful to speak with an attorney. Also, while it is never desirable and often not financially feasible, a renter has the right to vacate the property and to live somewhere else so long as the renter continues to make the required rent payments.
There are many factors to consider when you are looking to end a lease early. You can best protect your rights and financial interests by understanding the options available to you in order to legally end the lease term early.