Stuff happens. When it does, sometimes that means needing to break your lease and move on to greener pastures. When events change your lease objectives, it is important to know how to get out of a lease early.
What Is a Lease?
A lease is a contract between a property owner and leasee. The lease is a legal document that spells out what property is for rent, how long the leasee is obligated to pay rent, specific obligations of both the tenant and the landlord. The lease also defines how much rent is due and when it is due.
Why Would Someone Want to Get Out of a Lease Early?
You may need to get out of a lease early for several reasons, both good and bad. When business drops, the current lease may become too expensive. You may have found a better location, or decide to move to a different state. The landlord may allow the condition of the property to deteriorate. Or crime may increase in the neighborhood to the point that customers no longer feel safe visiting your establishment.
Ways to Get Out of a Lease Early
How to get out of a lease early is dependent on why you want to get out of your lease, how willing your landlord is to work with you, and what are the state laws in your area. Here are a few common ways to break a lease.
Analyze the Agreement
Granted the legalese used in most leases make it a challenge to read, but analyzing your lease when you find you need to move may offer valuable insight into how to get out of a lease early. Many landlords provide a contingency for early termination. For example, the lease may state a tenant must give the landlord a 60-day notice and forfeit the deposit to vacate early. The lease may also provide options to sublet the space or assign the rest of the lease to a third party. If subletting or assignment is an option, then it is up to you to find someone to take over the lease.
Discuss your Problem
Even if your contract offers no options on how to get out of a lease early, discuss your situation with the landlord. When business declines and you are in danger of falling behind on your rent payments, the landlord may be willing to renegotiate the remainder of the lease for either lower payments or for an early release. Another good time to renegotiate is if the rents in the area have gone up since you signed your lease. The landlord may find it to his advantage to let you out of your lease so he can rent the property to someone else for more money.
No one likes the thought of walking away from a legal obligation. But it is one way to get out of a lease early. To mitigate the legal repercussions, you will want to pay up all your back rent and communicate with your landlord on how to collect future rents. But here is the saving grace of this method. In many states, landlords are obligated to mitigate damages to the leasee by making a reasonable effort to rent the space out again as expediently as possible.
That means if you signed a 24-month lease and need to move after a year, you are responsible for another 12 months of rent whether you occupy the space or not. If the landlord can rent the space two months after you vacate, your liability is reduced to rent for only two months. Check state laws carefully to see if this option is available to you.
File an Eviction Lawsuit
If your landlord fails to keep up repairs, a tenant can take the landlord to court with a constructive eviction lawsuit. Your reason for vacating the property is the landlord breached the contract first. Therefore, you should not be required to stay or pay rent. For a constructive eviction to be a viable solution to get out a lease early, you must prove two points. First, prove the lack of maintenance made the property uninhabitable and the landlord was aware of the need for maintenance. Second, your reason for moving was directly related to the landlord’s due disregard for the safety of tenants and customers.
File for Bankruptcy
In times of crisis, bankruptcy is another answer to the how to get out of a lease early question. Through the bankruptcy process, a stay is put on collection activities made by your creditors. This includes your landlord. This stay on collections can buy you time to relocate to a new space. Through the bankruptcy process, you may also be relieved of all financial responsibility for the remainder of your lease. Before taking such a drastic step, consult a bankruptcy attorney.
The question of how to get out of a lease early has many possible answers. Which answer is right for you is dependent on many factors. It could be your reason for leaving, your financial situation, how willing the landlord is to work with you, and what the real estate market looks like in your area. Begin your journey to lease freedom with a thorough review of your existing lease. Know what rights the lease affords you, as well as what rights your state laws provide. From there, you can make an informed decision as to which option works best for you.