When considering lease termination, nothing replaces the advice of an attorney that specializes in real estate law. However, there are a few general things to keep in mind should you decide to terminate your lease early.
Read the Lease Agreement Carefully
This is key! Lease agreements can be very confusing and full of legal jargon. Read through your lease very carefully and look for key areas that set out time frames, such as the amount of notice you are required to give when you are ready to move out.
Use sources that are readily available on the Internet. There are many good websites that demystify lease laws and help guide renters through the leasing process. Two good sites to keep in mind are leasesource.com and findlaw.com.
Give Proper Notice
This is probably the most important step you can take when terminating your lease. Try to give your landlord ample notice so that he can re-rent the apartment as soon as possible. The quicker your landlord is able to re-rent the apartment, the less money will come out of your pocket in the end. If at all possible, try to provide a thirty-day notice, at minimum. Notice should always be given in writing. Never rely on a verbal agreement. Your written notice may be the only proof you have if a problem arises later and could save you hundreds of dollars in unpaid rental fees.
Accept the Consequences
Most of the time, you will be responsible for some unpaid rent expenses. However, this can depend on the reason for your termination. If your landlord has failed to make necessary repairs to your unit after having received written notice from you, and you have been forced to live in uninhabitable conditions, then you may not be responsible for any unpaid rent. Keep in mind that in most states, your landlord needs at least a thirty-day notice in order to make any requested repairs. Just about every state follows the same basic concept; just as tenants are required to make their monthly rental payments, landlords are responsible for providing safe apartments for their tenants. If a landlord fails to make necessary repairs to a rental unit, the landlord is basically breaching his contract, much as a tenant would when he fails to make his monthly rental payment.
Know Your Limitations
No matter how much research you do or how carefully you read your lease agreement, sometimes you just have to get legal help. An associate attorney hungry for work may charge you a lower hourly rate and one hour may be all the time you need to answer your questions. Most states also have some form of legal aid, where you can obtain legal services for a reduced rate.
Most importantly, just remember to be up front and honest with your landlord about your situation. Communication is key. Again, always give proper notice and make sure it is in writing, always.