How to Break a Lease Agreement

When you move into a new rental property, you sign a lease that specifies the terms and rules of your living situation. Sometimes, however, you may have to break your lease, which usually occurs when you need to move quickly. While it is never good to break your lease, if this is unavoidable, you should try to do it in the most reasonable way possible. Otherwise, you could find yourself owing your landlord lots of money.

Read your lease thoroughly and highlight any terms you think you may be breaking, as you'll want to address each point separately. Most people break their lease by moving out early, but keep in mind that getting a pet, withholding rent, having illegal substances, getting a roommate and other activities may also cause you to break your lease.

Review a copy of your state's rental laws, since you may have a right to break your lease. For example, depending on where you live, you might be able to move out before your lease is over if you're in the military and your assignment is changed or you might be able to withhold rent if your landlord hasn't addressed a major maintenance problem.

Inform your landlord as soon as possible of your situation and need to break the lease. The more time your landlord has to react, the better.

Negotiate a change in the lease or other agreement if possible. If you give your landlord as much notice as possible, you may be able to break the lease without penalty as a favor. This is at the discretion of the landlord, so keep in mind that the lease is binding in almost all situation, no matter what's going on in your life or how nice you are to your landlord.

Get a copy of your new agreement in writing, if you and your landlord are able to agree.


  • Return the rental property in the best condition possible, especially if your landlord has been working with you to find a solution. Stick to your word. If you don't uphold your end to the new agreement, you could find yourself facing penalties in court due to your lease. For example, if your lease specifies no pets, and you later decide with your landlord that a dog will be allowed with additional monthly fees, pay those fees every month on time or your landlord could revert to the original lease. Stay calm, even if you are frustrated. Your landlord will be more willing to work with you if you are polite.


  • Keep in mind that if you break your lease and your landlord isn't willing to work with you, you could be evicted and forced to pay for the remaining months on your lease. Always record all conversations with your landlord in writing in case you end up in court later. When you send things, do so via certified mail.