Legal Ways to Get Out of an Apartment Lease

by Kerry Zias
The lease itself may allow you to end it early.

An agreement to rent an apartment, also referred to as a lease, is a contract. A major part of such a contract is the term of the lease, meaning when it starts and when it ends. Your major obligation as the tenant is to pay the stated rent when it is due for the whole term of the lease. However, the landlord also has obligations to fulfill for the lease to be enforceable.

Lease Rental Agreement

One of the easiest and most successful ways to end a lease early is in the agreement itself. The agreement must be legal to be enforceable. State laws usually require a lease of one year or more to be in writing and signed by both parties. If it's not, there is no lease to break. If the lease allows you an escape clause, such as 120 days of written notice, then by doing so you have ended the lease. The agreement also may allow you to sublet your apartment or assign your lease.

Residence Physical Situation

Residential leases come with two promises to the tenant, whether expressly written or implied by law. One is the covenant of quiet enjoyment. If the landlord allows the neighbors to constantly keep you awake most nights, that breaks his obligation from the lease. Of course, you have to notify the landlord and give him a chance to correct the problem. The other promise is the warranty of habitability. The apartment must be properly maintained, including heat, hot water, working doors and windows, and be sanitary. If the landlord does not do so, he has broken his promise and the lease. The law usually will allow you out of your lease for either of these situations.

Tenant's Personal Situation

If you want to get out of the lease due to financial problems, you usually can terminate the lease by filing for bankruptcy. Of course, you will have to find another place to live. If you or your spouse enter active duty in the armed forces, federal law allows you to end your lease early. Some states allow you to legally leave early for self protection. For example, in Illinois, if you secure a court order of protection from someone, you are allowed to relocate for your safety.

Negotiating With Landlord

In any event, you should always try to negotiate directly with the landlord. If the landlord allows you to end your lease early, have him put it in writing and sign it. Even if your lease doesn't permit you to sublet or assign it, the landlord may agree to accept a new tenant that you bring to him. Again, get an acknowledgement of this in writing. The landlord may also accept a monetary compensation to allow you to end the lease. This might include paying for only part of the remaining months of rent or surrendering your security deposit.

About the Author

Kerry Zias has been a strategic business consultant and college instructor of business administration courses since 1990. He has taught courses and performed professional consulting work in the areas of marketing, management, business start-ups, entrepreneurship, real estate, sales psychology and performance, business communications, business law and political/governmental relations. Zias holds a Master of Business Administration in marketing from National University.

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