5 Tips for Breaking a Lease Legally

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Breaking a lease can have serious legal and financial consequences. While it is legal to break a lease in certain circumstances, doing so is neither easy nor fast. Prior to starting the process of breaking your lease, consider the following advice.

1. Know Your Rights

Knowing what you can and cannot legally do regarding your lease is the most important aspect to breaking a lease. Read your lease agreement and other related documents and perform preliminary research on tenant’s rights in your state.

Make note of those things that pertain to your situation that make it legal to break a lease. Sometimes, your lease agreement or state may require you to do certain things, such as put the landlord on notice of the problems that make you want to break your lease.

2. Understand Your Reasons for Breaking the Lease

If you are breaking your lease not because of maintenance or other problems or simply because you cannot afford it any longer or because you need to move for work or another reason, you may be able to break the lease quite easily. Typically in this situation your landlord will require thirty or sixty days notice and for you to forfeit your deposit or pay the remainder of the lease payments due. While this option is expensive, it is amicable.

3. Keep Records

However, you may desire to break your lease because of maintenance or safety issues or animosity between yourself and neighbors or even the landlord. In these situations, tenants have certain rights that permit a lease to be broken without financial repercussion. Most states will enable a tenant to break a lease and vacate the premises immediately should a violent crime occur on the property, the landlord fail to fix a serious maintenance issue or if the apartment, building or complex be in violation of one or more city health codes.

For one of these reasons to be the basis for a tenant breaking a lease there must be proof of the problem. Keep records of the problems and any contact you have had with the landlord or officials that show the seriousness and ongoing nature of the problem. These records will support your needing to break the lease and could be handy should the landlord decide to contest your actions.

4. Provide Notice

Notifying the landlord that you intend to break the lease and the reason for your actions is an essential step prior to vacating the apartment. Unless you fear retaliation from the landlord, do not simply move out from the premises. Instead, give your landlord written notice as far in advance as you are able. In this letter you should cite to the lease provision that provides the ability for you to break the lease and states any further obligations you have.

In some situations, you may need to pay a fine or the remainder of lease payments but in others you may be able to simply move out with no further obligations.

5. Be Courteous

Unless your relationship with the landlord has become extremely bad, it is always best to remain pleasant when breaking your lease. Be straightforward and show that you are knowledgeable about your rights and ability to break the lease without being rude or abrasive. Many times, because you are being polite in the situation, you may find that your landlord is willing to work with you and find another tenant or waive certain of your obligations.

15 Responses to “5 Tips for Breaking a Lease Legally”

  1. November 09, 2010 at 3:34 pm, Kris said:

    we live in a apartment since feb and we have had to do alot of the repairs ourself and put in alot of money to repair ourselfs cuz the owners refuse to get maintaince to do anything and now we are dealing with mice problems and they are not willing to take care of that one and we dont feel we should have to pay to take care of the mice ourselfs with all the money we have already forked into the apartment with all of that do we have the right to break our lease?


  2. August 22, 2011 at 8:14 am, Concerned Dad said:

    If you find yourself Kris’s situation contact your local code enforcement office in your city. This is particularly true for anything that has to do with health or safety such as sewer issues, other plumbing issues, infestations of insects or critters, electric problems, natural gas problems and HVAC. In some jurisdictions even screens are a requirement.

    If your city has a code enforcement website, there may be helpful info there and you can always schedule a code inspection.


  3. August 28, 2011 at 11:40 pm, jackeline salcedo said:

    We move to a house July 27 since then we are asking the management company to change the carpet in the house the full house is with pet urine they clean the carpet , the smell is terrible I don’t know what to do help me please . I want to break the Lease they also offer to repair the fan in the kitchen and now they are telling me That Owner don’t Have the money .
    We have no privacy went the show the house they told us that the city remove some trees from the back
    now we are asking for the trees , they answer is Up to The City of Boise , Sorry.
    Please help me the smell is in my baby rooms , family rooms , master bedroom every where


  4. September 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm, Danielle said:

    I have been renting for over a year at one place. Since i moved in the ceiling leaked 5 times. The property manager has “fixed” it 5 times. I have called the property owners and they tell me to let property manager handle it. I have kept documentation on all the leaks. The side walk is in serious need of repair and has been that way since this past winter. When they renewed the lease the rent was increased. I have told the property manger many times about the sidewalk with no result. I have an opportunity to move to another place and im afriad I’m not going to get out of the lease. Do I have a chance of breaking my lease?


  5. October 29, 2011 at 7:55 pm, Girl said:

    My laundry room floor is rotting away because of leaks in the ceiling, which has caused the floor to become unstable and as a result our first set of laundry machines have been broken because no matter what we try to solve the problem the washer machine always manages to become un-level. We have notified the landlord several times about this with no acknowledgment to the problem.

    Also, we were told prior to moving in the average cost of utilities, however the actual cost is at least $100 over what we were told. He has offered to fix the problem (he says the air ducts may be knocked loose) however he has not done anything to fix it for at least a month. With the elevated cost of utilities it makes it even harder to pay for rent.

    Is there anything legally that we as the tenants are able to do? Is there a way to break the lease? I really do not want to live in this situation.


  6. November 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm, Patsy said:

    My sister lost her husband one year ago. Her house was to much for her to take care of so sold it. She moved into a 55 and over community in Florida. Her former home was also in Florida. Her adult children live in NY. She has become very stressed and wants to relocate to NY and move into a 55 and older community there. Her lease does not expire until June, 2012. I understand there is a law in NY that suggests an individual who choses to move from one adult community to another can do so without penalty. Is this a fact and would this apply to my sister’s circumstances? You assistances would be greatly appreciated.


  7. May 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm, john said:

    only exit is thru the entrance


  8. May 16, 2012 at 11:51 am, Want to go back home Rent 2High said:

    I left my home cause my daughter / Grands did’nt have anywhere to say. So I allowed her to move in with me until I found a place to stay, she and I can’t live together like that I’m a neat freak she is not go figure…So I’m in this apartment the rent is so high here in which I thought everything was included in the rent monthly, but it’s not…come to find out my daughter is destroing my home allowing her children to do anything in there they are trashing the place, but I’m in this lease for 1year and I really want out…how do I go by this? My daughter is moving out my home I can afford to stay there but not in this falsly manor of what they put out to rent this. There was a lot of income with my husband…What should I do?


  9. September 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm, Anon said:

    Rules may vary from state to state; look at your lease and ask a person with the appropriate legal knowledge to help you.


  10. December 06, 2012 at 4:37 am, james said:

    Me & my girl just moved in an apartment not even two weeks ago. We’re seein mice (health hazzard). The tub won’t come clean. We’ve used clorox,409,comet cleanser etc,but nothing seems to get it clean.Same thin with the facebowl. Thought we could sweep and mop the floors but it still lookin like its dirty. No fire ext or smoke detector ( fire hazzard/possible fine ). Overange over the stove looks like its milldewed. We’re just not pleased,at all.please tell me what can I do to get out this lease.


  11. December 12, 2012 at 3:15 am, Alley said:

    I am a older woman in mid 60’s and my youngest daughter near 30 who is a college graduate with two degrees but has not found permanent and substantial work . I can no longer work due to many serious medical conditions and a emotional issue since childhood as well. My daug hter was a A student all through school but is still extremely shy. However as a reuslt of my low income now I had to move in a very bad area of DC in South East and I actual have always lived in poor areas while working but the buildings were the better ones in the neighborhoods. I moved in about a year ago and when I looked at the apar tment it was twice but never at night due to being sick and no car. So about a month
    after moving in I am sitting in my leaving room and I smell drug smoke which is illegal to use or sell
    on the premises and it is a violating to sit in the h allway under hte no loteiring which is being sitting
    wit h people basically using it for a social room. This smoke was very heavy in my living room . I tried to be nice and asked these 3 persons not to do that by my door in the hall in a very nice way and these were older ones about 30-50 and they promises they would not do this again and they didn’t but they told ot her tenants this and I was called a bitch. I ask t hem not to do t his nicely and it was obviously I am a senior and I said I have a seirous heart disease and I can’t have smoke of any kind coming in my living room. Well even though the older ones stop doing i t then the young boy across the hall got ou t of jail and his boys and girls did it all hours or the day. The lady upstairs had her young grandson who was simply ridicoulous fighting girls all hours by my door smoking so much drugs up under my door I had to go to the ER 3 times. I kept asking t hem to stop and they did it more so I reported them to t he Realtor . Well the ones across the hall were evic ted for none payment of rent but my apar tment is t he only aobut with people who are not drug addict ed or serious potheads. I have seen one of them using needles in hallway and there mo ther does i tand she is now calling me all t ypes of Bit ches and saying I should just move I would lvoe to if I had the money to do so. Now the young boy is bring people in and telling everyone , repair people we don’t socialize wit h them and that’s why they can’ tb e in the hall. Excuse me first of all my daug hter nor I do any t ype of drugs or party drinking , my daug hter nor I have no thi ng in common but living in the same building wi th them. Plus we are people who are rahter not be around groups and hanging around each person just because t hey live around y ou. I am very cordially I speak to eve ryone especially the little kids who are always innocent no ma tter who their parent is. I cannot understand for hte life of me why these young people who are drug addicts think we should be hangin up under them when we are not users at all. I think a good neighbor is not going along with all things even when illegal , violat ing lease but to respect each o ther space, peace of mind and in my case t he fact that I am a senior and sick. I speak to each neighbor in this building or neighborhood. I do nothing to violate them at all and I think they should stop being ridiculous thinking if we were doing it we would not complain. I am not going to change my principles to say I am get ing along with people who are wrong doers and selfish. The worse part about it is anot her man who was not apart of the drug seen hear move out in less than a month but he worked so he could. This new lady moves in and asked my sis ter who was visiting me each sunday for a ride to get some fuses and my sis ter is a social worker for many yea rs and I also worked in a mental facility so we know drug smoke plus my younger brot her came done for a funder and he was once a heavy drug user and he said that it is drugs but even if it were regular cigaretss the hallway is sitll off limits for parties and smoking of any kind by my door on the first floor. Anyway about a few weeks after this new lady moves way up stairs she gets a bad attitude with me because her knew buddy with the grandsons who was blowing all this smoke up under my door tells her I am just complainting about them playing music by my door and this is a big lie. the noise is so bad at 1:00 a.m
    once her grandson is fighting one of his whores as he refers to by my door now slams her against my door so hard and she’s yelling loud and she hit the door so hard t wo of my pic tures fell off the wall excuse me grandmother a little noise and this type of acti ivity when on around the clock. So this new fool who my sist er helps out th e first day she moves in, knocks on my door wi th her grocery basket and says can you all watch this until I t ake some upstairs. Now I can’t go up stairs so my sis ter helps her up with some and I calls my daug herto asist also bu t before my dau ghtergoes up my sis ter and t he lady comes down and she takes the basket up. My sis ter who has known me for all my life unlike this woman comes back in my apart ment with some nonesense I can only assume came f rom this fool neighbors lips. she is looking like she is afraid t o even say i t ….why do you t hink if you don’t hang around drug addicts you won’t become addict ed. Now first my child is not a child she is 30 and when away to school but she received christ on her own decision a ta young age and never looked back. As for me I made the decision long ago as I look around seeking cousins, neighbors dropping, children abused due to drug abuse. I pu tmy sister ou tand told her t o not re turn if she was going to list en to a fool who no’s not hing abou tme and I don’t hang with any neighbors regardless of drug use or not and the same applies to co-workers. Again I am respec tful and cordial but never do I befr iend these people. My daug hter and I are bo th just people who like to keep to our self and do things we like that they don’ t give a dam abou tlike art , reading, ot her things. We both hav e friends we selec ted who wi th have similar in terst in. Isn’t that is how friends should be selec ted and no t simply because you live in the same building, neighborhood or work with them this is a ridiculous believe. I really t hink the fools think if I would run in and ou tof their plac es then I would say oh well smoke allup in my lungs and make me run to the ER this is a ridiculour theory if I ever heard one and for my sist er to ge t choked up by this fool neighbor of mine who does know ei ther of us at all or what those boys had done to me over the year I canno tallow her to come hear because I worked in mental health and she has worked with plenty of substance abusers, convicts, etc and she should no that one thing t hey tell all suibstnace abusers who are recover is never to associate with ot her drug users so why would anyone think me or my daugh ter who have no desire to use drug s or alcohol is jus t anxious to befriend them and I do not scorn because I do speak and if they ask for reasonable favors I t ry to help. They are stupid but my sist er I can’t understand at all


  12. June 17, 2013 at 4:39 pm, Stacey, M said:

    I have a question.

    I live in Virginia & my dad ill in Texas & he needs to be cared for. So I’m leaving for Texas on 09/28/2013, my lease expires 02/01/2014. Am I going to have to pay for the 5 months left on my lease? Please, any advice will help. I’ve already contacted employers in Texas who are waiting on me to arrive. So this is set in stone.

    Thank you,
    Stacey, M


  13. December 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm, Tess Kantor said:

    Hi! I signed a one year rental Lease. The house is perfect, but it smells very strongly to insecticide. Can I break the Lease?
    Thanks, Tess


  14. January 29, 2014 at 1:01 pm, Paul said:

    Our experience is like the renters’ version of “The Money Pit.”
    Anyway, in Oct. we moved into an older house we found on Craigslist that had been divided into a 3 family. We’re in the middle, next to the landlords. The front unit is (usually) vacant.
    Anyway, upon move-in we realized that the large living room had only one outlet. Since we were planning to use this as our TV/entertainment room, and knew we would need a large AC unit in the summer, we asked if we could have more installed. Landlords said OK.
    Next the landlord informs us we “owe” her for the full tank of oil left behind by the previous tenant, because the landlords claim to have filled it 5 years ago. At first we say ok, but after discussing with lawyers, we realize we’re only responsible for leaving the tank the way we found it. We email this to them….no response.
    We notice there are NO functioning smoke or CO2 alarms in the unit. Put in writing that we need these, and request verbally 2-3 times. Still nothing.
    Then we realized the shower was leaking through the ceiling. Notified landlord who kind of looked at it, but did very little.
    Main stairway has NO railing. We understand this is a pretty severe code violation….landlord measured and said he’d “get to it.” Still nothing after 2 month. They had 5 days.
    Our front entrance is repeatedly blocked by the landlords’ vehicles. We mention this to them at least twice. They sort of shrug it off and continue obstructing.
    FINALLY (last straw) the landlords disappear for 2 weeks in the dead of winter, lock us out of the basement where the circuit breakers and oil tanks are….we’re stuck wondering what happened to them and left to deal with snow removal ourselves (it was supposed to be provided by the landlords).
    What a nightmare. They’ve returned (without a word!!) and we’ve send a certified letter telling them we’re breaking the lease due to “Constructive Eviction.” Stay tuned and wish us luck!


  15. May 07, 2014 at 10:29 am, Alison said:

    I moved into my duplex in November 2013. in WI. As the heat was on through the winter, I never noticed the disgusting stale smoke smell of my neighbors. Now that it’s getting warmer and I am able to turn off the heat, all I smell is the stale smoke. I believe it’s coming from the vents. I have purchased air purifiers and have filtered all the vents but can still smell it. I am not forced to leave my windows open 24/7 unless I want to smell the smoke. My landlord claims there is nothing he can do about it until my neighbors move out. My neighbors (assuming we have the same lease) are currently breaking two agreements on the lease (smoking and pets). My landlord said he is aware of both and does nothing about it. I was never told about this when I moved in or I would not have. My lease is up in November 2014. I am ready to make a large purchase on more filters/air fresheners to erase the smoke smell. Any advice? Can I break my lease because of this? How do I get the landlord look into/fix the problem? (He has been in my house when it smells bad on multiple occasions).


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