How to Break Your Lease for Security and Safety Reasons

in Health & Safety, Legal Issues on by
Man stresses out as he wonders how to break his lease agreement without paying any fines

It’s something no one wants to have to deal with: a situation has come up that necessitates you breaking your lease agreement.

Even if you’re being forced to move because of safety concerns, pushback from your landlord is still likely here, as breaking your lease is essentially reneging on a signed agreement. In some cases, it can even carry legal repercussions. Still, you may have some tenant rights at your disposal to help you cleanly cut ties and move on for good.

Valid Safety Concerns

Let’s say that the unit you rented has some serious problems — mold, for example, or a leaking ceiling that hasn’t been repaired by management. Tenants who report such issues are usually allowed to break their leases due to their landlord’s failure to abide by safety regulations and/or to maintain a habitable living environment. Documentation is key here, so remember to photograph the areas of the apartment that are not up to code, or that in any way present a hazard to your health.

Dealing With Your Landlord

Getting in touch with the landlord would be the natural next step to getting these issues resolved, but assuming you already tried that without any action being taken, you’ll want to start recording your conversations with them in whatever ways you’re able to help build your case. This includes saving any email correspondences, texts, or voicemails between the two of you. In short, you should catalog everything you feel is pertinent to your situation.

In most places, safety or building code complaints can be grounds for an investigation by the local health department — something any property owner would probably want to avoid. If your landlord isn’t budging, you can make one final attempt to get the problem dealt with by sending them a formal notice by mail (print out a second copy to keep for your own records). State in the letter what particular problems you’ve observed that pose a threat to your safety and well-being, and that you intend to break the lease if these matters are not promptly corrected. Remember to enclose a return receipt in the envelope, too, so they can confirm that they got the letter.

After that, the landlord has a specified window of time (it varies state by state) in which to resolve the safety violations to the satisfaction of all parties. However, if they refuse to correct the issue even after you’ve given formal notice, you’ll have to go ahead and file a complaint with the health department. Once you’ve reached out to them, an investigation will be made into the property. A worker will come to inspect your apartment and take note of any health or safety violations that may exist.

They’ll then put together a report that will be submitted to the landlord, once again giving them a certain amount of time in which to fix the issue. The landlord must take action at this point or risk paying a fine, and the inspector will have to come back again to verify that the landlord has complied with the department’s regulations. If all goes well, you may not need to terminate your lease after all. Still, you’re sure to benefit from understanding the laws that protect you in case the problem isn’t fixed and you do need to pack up and leave. No one should be made to stay in an apartment that is, for whatever reason, uninhabitable.

Going to the Local Housing Department

Gather up all of the documentation in your possession regarding the safety violations in your unit and actions you took to remedy them, and put all of it in a binder. The written notice to the landlord and an official copy of the health department’s findings are going to be especially helpful here. Contact your jurisdiction’s housing department, outlining the problems you’ve faced in your living environment and the failure of the landlord to undertake the necessary repairs. You should also mention your intention to move out, and that upon doing so, you are not to be held responsible for compensating him or her for however many months’ rent payments remain on the lease. Therefore, you will not be legally obligated to pay anything upon vacating the property.

Tying up these loose ends, which entails compiling your own personal file with all of the evidence in your favor, will give you a definite advantage in taking things into your own hands and doing what you can to lawfully exit your lease agreement. Following these steps, providing ample notice to the aforementioned parties, and being crystal clear in your intentions will keep you immune from any legal action your landlord may try to take.

22 Responses to “How to Break Your Lease for Security and Safety Reasons”

  1. May 13, 2010 at 2:24 am, D'Ann Stefano said:

    one of my roommates just hung himself ,dead in the garage. everyone moved out. I never signed a lease or rental agreement. I want my 800 deposit and the prorated rent from the day the guy did that. Is that possible in California?


  2. June 09, 2010 at 11:43 pm, kristin said:

    D’ann, it was not your landlord’s fault your room mate made that unfortunate decision. I DO know in the state of Utah that you can get out of your lease for an experience (case in point, a neighbor commits suicide, the body was not found for several days, neighbors left after the odor became intense)

    also, you state you had no lease or rental agreement? How was your deposit made? To whom? You will most likely have to file in small claims if you can prove you paid a deposit. Good luck, but personally IANAL but I play one on TV 😉


  3. June 09, 2010 at 11:49 pm, Monica said:

    Question: I want out of my lease early for a security reason. I am in Glendale AZ. I had my room mate move in almost a year ago, I asked my landlord if they need his ID to get on the lease. She declined and said nicely “no problem, we don’t need his ID he can just move in” this really worries me, what if he is a sex offender (he’s not) don’t the neighbors need to be alerted? I found out they let just anyone in, they don’t check them. This means I might be living next door to felons, sex offenders, child molesters and god knows who. They also lease to illegal immigrants (hey i dont mind the immigrants but isnt this against the law?)

    Also, this complex was a member of the Crime Free Community when I moved in, but a few months ago they lost their status.

    Does anyone have ANY advice they can give me?


  4. February 22, 2011 at 10:19 pm, Desperate said:

    I just moved into my place several days ago. Today the maintenance man came to fix my toilet and check the furnace. I soon found out the furnace is placed under the townhouses in a crawl space (which I was never told about) when he left I heard a cat meowing like it was being murdered. I went to management and told them I thought a cat had gotten caught under the crawl space they told me to call Animal Control which I did. When I got back to my place it smelled of cat urine and feces so bad I could hardly breath!!! The Animal Control person showed up and went to talk with management. She then came back to my place and told me that they said more then 10 cats live in the crawl space which means they are using it as a litter box. It smells so awful!! Is this a health violation?? I live in Utah. I’m seriously reconsidering living here! HELP!


  5. August 26, 2011 at 11:26 am, Tracy said:

    We have been broken into 2 now ..Once in my appartment and 1 in the truck, and my boyfriend works out of town 3 weeks out of the month and I just dont feel safe..Can I break my lease


  6. November 09, 2011 at 11:07 am, mommy2be said:

    Hi everyone I have been living in my apartment for a couple of month(3or4). I’m pregnant with twins, and have complained to my landlord about me not having a working stove, my fridge that was suppose to be new when i move in that has rust which is falling into my ice trays everytime i open it, and mold that is growing in it.I have complained constantly about this due to the fact mold can make someone very sick, i have also complained about the gate that never gotten fixed that was suppose to get fixed before i moved in and still broke, and the two sliding glass doors that are hard to open and close, as well as my toilet that you have to flush 3x for it to properly fluch correctly, and my shower that backs up water when your trying to take a shower, and your left standing in dirty water. what should i do i want to break my lease get my deposite, and the money i have been paying for the last couple of months,that i have been paying with nothing getting fixed. The Village In Tallahassee fl on Pensacola Street I recommend no one to move their its horrible,


  7. February 03, 2012 at 1:20 pm, sherry said:

    My son is a freshman and goes to the Univsity of Kentucky. We signed a one year lease in a new apartment complex. Since he has lived there the police activity has increased substantially. They have even had to send in the swat team on occassion. We as parents have witnessed management encouraging loud partying. There has been violent crimes reported at the complex and we are currently waiting on a police report stating all the occurences. Last week my son was robbed a gun point at the complex. We have currently moved him out and put him in a safe place, but now we have to pay two rents. How can we get out of our lease? Please help!!!


  8. August 14, 2012 at 2:51 am, Tired said:

    So, my roommate and I have only lived in this place for a few months and our neighbor was murdered. We heard the yelling, the screaming and the gun shots. To make matters worse, I was on the news saying that I heard everything. They still havent caught the guy and our anxiety level has increased ten fold. I can’t sleep, and am constantly late to work because of it. My performance at work is also slipping and my managers are starting to notice. The emotion and medical effect that its had on me is making it hard for me to function as well. We want to break our lease early, but our landlord says that our anxiety isnt a reason to break a lease and that domestic violence happens everywhere? Is there any way around this? Anything I can do at all? I live in Oregon.


  9. August 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm, Kudzu said:

    I’ve lived in my Apt for 7 years. Every couple of years the mold growing in the window get so bad that I have to request the landlord do something about it. One year, in 2007, they came and bleached over the mold and painted it. in 2009, I got really sick with raised red hives, breathing problems and erratic weight gain, and I discovered the entire width of the back wall covered in mold up to 2 ft high and higher in some places, I also found mold in the front window and surrounding the in wall AC Unit. I cleaned the mold MYSELF and sent a certified letter to the landlord asking for professional mold service. He sent an official reply that someone was coming to check it, but send an unofficial verbal reply via on of his crew that the only thing he would allow was bleaching and painting. Since I’d already cleaned the mold myself, they were only going to paint the walls yet again, but that didn’t work in 2007 or in 2005 because the mold just eats up the new paint. Since I was too broke to move out, aand I had no insurance for hospital tests or mold tests to prove anything, I was stuck. The maintenance had pity on me and scraped off the old flaking water damage paint and sealed the walls and repainted with a fungicide as well as putting special sealing paint outside my wall, bu they never bleached or painted my front window and AC and the mold immediately started growing there and in the windows again. Since 2009, I’ve been spraying the windows and walls, and new mold growth I find with 40volume peroxide, and looking for a new place to live. Like I said before, I’m low income and this is the cheapest place in town, so I got a third job and worked extra hours and was luckily able to buy a house on mortgage the same as my rent in 2012. But now my Landlord refuses to let me out of the lease I had to renew my lease in January for a lease that ends in June otherwise I would have lost my chance to renew a couple of months before the lease ends, which was when I found the house. Not only that, but he told me if I left anyway that they would refuse to rent out my unit so that they could keep collecting rent from my empty unit, and on TOP OF THAT, I’ve been bringing in people to re-assign my lease, like he said I could do, but He is DENYING their applications so they are not eligible to be assigned my lease. Plus to make it funnier, I put in for work request last week that included my toilet not being able to flush because the arm is rusted away, and the hot water tank not making hot water, and it’s Tuesday and I’ve heard NOTHING from them. What remedies do I have, Since my Landlord is walking all over me and doesn’t care about my health, finances or comfort ( toilet and hot water)? I didn’t give written notice to move out cause i thought i could get someone to reassign but he’s blocking that, so now even if I gave notice I’d have to default on the rent or pay at least 2 more months but he said Ihave to pay the rest of the least equal through next June in 2012. HELP! HELP! HELP! ( to ice the cake I’ve lost two of my three jobs last week and the third has cut my hours!! HELP!!!!!!!!!)


  10. January 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm, Kayla said:

    I have had my car broken into. I also have people walk up to me while I’m out walking my dog asking for drugs. Along with that New Years night we had .44 caliber gun shells outside my door on my porch and down our staircase. Not 3 days later there were gunshots in 2 different directions cars speeding away and sirens. Not to mention my ceiling busted open with no known cause and water came pouring in my apartment all over my counter and carpet. I called for maintenance and told the front office since I don’t have a number for my landlord. It’s now a month later and my carpet has not been cleaned even though I was told they would come the Friday after it happened and my ceiling has not been fixed. I wasn’t notified upon move in of the crime rate in the area. And my lease says I owe 2000 if I break the lease. Do I have any grounds to break the lease without paying and if so how?


  11. March 01, 2013 at 12:44 pm, Worried said:

    My husband and I moved into a townhouse (Richmond, va) about 8 months ago. For the past two months there have been gun shots heard every night. The property owner knows about this because a bullet went into a neighbors apartment and they sent out a notice. I do not feel safe knowing that one night the bullet could be going through my window. Another safety issue I have a problem with is that the owner of the property is not enforcing their rules. They only send out notices thinking that everyone reads them. There are several tenants that let their dogs roam around without being on a leash. It is really hard to take my own dogs out because I never know when a random dog is going to come by and try something. I need help, I want out of this place without having to pay all these fees!!


  12. September 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm, Taylor said:

    I want to break my lease due to the fact my ac runs all day and night and never shuts off. And the house never gets below 85 degrees. The land owner refuses to replace the old and worn out central heat and air. Do I have a case or do I need to stick it out.


  13. October 07, 2016 at 1:58 pm, Stash said:

    I have been in my apartment since April first 2016 I have had tons of maintenance issue that have been documented on my part and have continuously not been fixedoing. I also have safety issues due to the surroundings I have had cops in front of my apartment for a few domestic violence issues for the tenant above me alone with my apartment being attempted broken in to. Am I able to get out of my lease clean and clear.


  14. October 17, 2016 at 5:12 am, Anja said:

    I live in apt complex near houston . The Manager lives on site , her boyfriend had a alteration with another man in the parking lot , he ran inside came out with a gun and started shooting at the car of the other man , the bullets hit the car and some bounced of into another apt window . I fear for my safety and would like to move out imminently given the circumstances. Can i break the lease given the resent events .


  15. October 18, 2016 at 9:49 am, Kim said:

    My daughter DESPERATELY NEEDS to get out of a lease because the person that she was dating and living with is violent and has pulled a gun on her. The landlord has said she can't get off unless the other party agrees and she can't go back there because her life is in danger. I NEED to know how to legally get her off of the lease. My daughter can't live there any longer. Her life is in danger. Please, Please, somebody tell me how she can legally get off of there. The ex is being a pain and won't give his okay to let her off. There has to be a way to legally get her off without his permission. Please, Please somebody help me out.


  16. November 28, 2016 at 8:43 pm, Elaine luddy said:

    Twice car stolen by gunpoint the second time around the neighbor said three cars were taken from him I asked if this was a safe area and the detective said it was not the landlady did not disclose this I would like to break the lease I have heart trouble


  17. December 03, 2016 at 10:40 am, Jenni said:

    Hi, my husband and I literally just moved into a new apartment complex in Washington this past week. It's supposed to be safe because it's in a gated community, but someone smashed the window of his car and stole stuff that he had in the front seat. Now, when I initially called to ask about crime in the area, I was told by someone who works for the company that their neighborhood is one of the safest in the city. Obviously this is not true if they have people breaking windows all the time. I've been told that this isn't the first time it's happened either, and that the company knows about the prior incidents. Is there any way we can get out of our lease so that we can move somewhere safer or do we just have to suck it up until our lease is up (in about a year)?


  18. December 03, 2016 at 5:42 pm, Sheri said:

    So I live in Spokane, WA. The apartment I live in is an old building. The apartment I live in has been newly renovated with new floors, paint, etc…However here are some of the main problems in the apartment.

    1st: There is a wall furnace/heater that runs on gas. For some reason it was not working, so I emailed my landlord and she had someone come out and fix it/ turn it on. The heater man explicitly told me that we need to open windows when we first start the heater because of C02 poisoning. The man did get the heater to work, however I turn it off when I leave to save money, because I have to pay the gas bill. Now the heater will not turn back on and it is December and I live in a cold geographical area. So it is really important to have heat at this time, it is a real safety concern.

    2nd: This goes along with the first problem. I bought a small electric space heater. The problem here is that whenever we have appliances plugged in like, microwave, computer, fridge, stove, t.v., game systems, etc..the circuit usually breaks and electrical power goes out. It is easy to restart we just have to press the circuit breaker. However this happens when most appliances are off. Usually when the microwave, heater, and computer are running at the same time is enough to make the power go out. It is frustrating..I feel like we live in an old apartment, that needs updating in the form of electrical infrastructure…the apartment is just not up to the current times in maintaining the average household use of electricity.

    3rd: We have been trying almost 4 months to get internet service place. I first called a local provider and they were unable to put any services in the apartment. They said they " needed to make a right of entry agreement" in order to service the apartment. I have contacted the landlord about this hoping to move the process further along however she fails to respond or seemingly do anything to help. Recently I called another local provider, they said they were able to come in and install internet in our apartment. However when the employee arrived to install the internet, he was not able to because the wiring from our phone jack is cut. He said I needed to contact my landlord so that she can call an electrician to install new wiring in the apartment. The internet is pretty vital today, especially for students in school. At least for me and my college experience, you really cannot study and finish your assignments without the internet. Plus most people benefit from it greatly in today's' society.

    I kind of want to just break the lease and hopefully someone can help.


  19. December 16, 2016 at 11:46 am, Brianna Beltran said:

    Hi, my name is Brianna I am a current resident at distinction apartment homes in San Antonio Texas. I'm trying to leave due to failure of maintenance but I have a room mate, can I terminate my half of the lease without penalty?


  20. December 20, 2016 at 3:49 am, Tim M said:

    My apartment complex is very lacksidaisica regarding clearing sidewalks and their parking lot, resulting in an overwhelming buildup of ice. One morning I was even unable to get out of the parking lot to get to work. My fiancé has been recently placed on crutches (obviously incredibly unsafe on ice). I've taken pictures of the ice buildup on the sidewalks/parking lots. Do I need to contact the local Americans with Disabilities act as well as give notice?


  21. January 07, 2017 at 10:14 am, Jennifer said:

    I reside in a small a town and rent a house in Ohio. We are not living in the most desireable area. The house across the street from mine is very specious if alot of drug activity. There are too many people coming and going at various times. We fear for our safety and want to kno2 if thats just cause to legally break a lease? The landlord decided to tell us of the possible drug activity the day we signed our lease.


  22. March 14, 2017 at 12:26 pm, Nicole Lima said:

    I was assaulted by another tenet living in my apartment complex. She punched me in the eye, unprovoked due to her car blocking the driving lane of both coming and going traffic. All while I was 6months pregnant. I called the police and she was arrested and I have the police report and pictures, and a witness to the event all documented. Do I have the right in FL to break my leave without penalty, and even getting my deposit and last month rent returned? My complex management group is trying to say I would have to pay the penalties and lose my deposits.


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