Breaking your lease agreement is not a matter that you should take lightly. You face legal repercussions that will cost you time and money, and will affect your ability to lease other apartments. You should do what you can to resolve matters with your landlord, or obtain a release to terminate your lease early.
Cure or Quit Notices
You’ll receive a notice from your landlord if you don’t pay rent in anticipation of breaking your lease. It depends on what state you live in, but you’ll get an “Unconditional Quit Notice”, “Cure or Quit Notice” or “Pay Rent or Quit Notice”. The type of notice you get determines whether you’re able to correct any violations to the lease agreement, pay rent owed, or if you have to vacate the apartment without any opportunity to correct the problem. This is the first step required in an evictions proceedings brought against you for breaking your lease agreement.
After serving you with proper notice, the landlord can file a complaint against you in court to evict you, and summon you to appear before a judge. You’ll have give a legal defense for why you’re breaking the lease. If you don’t have one that will hold up in court, a judgment will be awarded against you, and you’ll have to pay the rent owed and legal fees. You’ll also have to leave the apartment, or get escorted out by a sheriff or other government authority. This is a legal repercussion of breaking your lease that can haunt you for the rest of your rental life. An eviction on your rental record makes it difficult to rent other apartments, and should be avoided at all cost.
Damages for Violating a Contract
You’re still subject to a lawsuit for breaking the lease, even if you vacate the property. Instead of an evictions proceeding, the landlord can sue you for breaking a contract. The lease is a contract in which you agreed to certain duties and the payment of rent in exchange for shelter. When you break that lease agreement, the landlord suffers damages. If you don’t have a good cause for breaking the lease, the landlord has a right to compensation for those damages, and for the fees associated with bringing you to court.
Mitigation of Damages
While you’re on the hook for all the rent due if you don’t have a legal defense, the landlord does have a duty to mitigate damages. The landlord can’t just sit back and wait until the lease it up, without trying to rent the apartment to another tenant. The landlord has to show that they tried in good faith to rent the apartment, so that the rent you owe by the time the lawsuit is heard, is not as much as it would have been otherwise.
There are some situations where you won’t get into any legal trouble for breaking a lease. Some include health problems or military service. Check your state’s landlord and tenant laws to confirm the instances in which you won’t suffer legal repercussions for breaking your lease agreement.