Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Breaking A Rental Lease Agreement

What is a Lease?

A rental lease is a contract between the landlord and tenant in which rental terms are defined and agreed upon.  This includes the term of the lease, the rent amount, and other responsibilities for both the tenant and the landlord. 

What is Considered “Breaking a Lease”?

Since the lease is a legally binding contract, vacating prior the specified date is considered breaking the lease.  The lease is specific to the property address and tenants listed, so transferring the lease to another name or property is not allowed (Wolf & Kline does not allow subletting).

Protected Reasons for Breaking a Lease:

In some cases, having to vacate prior to your lease end date is protected by state laws. For example, active-duty military who receive orders are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.  If the rental unit is uninhabitable (does not meet health and safety codes for the state) this would be another acceptable reason to break the lease. Also, if the landlord violates privacy of the tenant, for example entering without notice or harassing the tenant, these could be reasons to be released early from a lease.

Examples of Unprotected Reasons for Breaking a Lease:

Examples of things that will NOT release you early from a lease include job relocation, divorce or relationship breakups, or buying a home.  If you are still locked into a lease with a roommate and one of you wants to leave, typically both/all leaseholders will still be responsible until the end of the lease term.  Problems with roommates is not a legal reason to break a lease, so be careful who you sign with!

What Happens If You Break Your Lease?

For Wolf & Kline, our leases are typically for one year, and then automatically renew month-to-month after that.  A written 60-day notice is required after the one year is up in order to vacate the property.  If a tenant decides to break the lease and vacate before their one year is over, they will forfeit their security deposit, as well as still being responsible for rent, utilities, and keeping renter’s insurance on the property until the end of your responsibility date.

While some things in life are unpredictable, it is best to do everything you can to avoid breaking your lease.  Breaking your rental agreement could affect your credit if financial obligations are not taken care of, as well as making it harder to rent again in the future if a landlord requires previous rental references. 

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