How to Break Your Apartment Lease (legally)

An apartment lease is a binding contract between the renter and the landlord. Technically it is a unilateral contract. The tenant usually agrees to occupy the apartment home for a specific period of time (usually 3-12 months). A landlord cannot just terminate your lease unless you have violated a specific clause. 

But did you know that you can break your apartment lease legally, without having to pay any fees.  Usually if you must terminate your lease early, you must forfeit 1-2 months of rent. 

What is A Broken Lease

All of these types of leases are not bad. A broken lease occurs when the tenant simply leaves the rental without fulfilling the terms of the lease. For example, if you agreed to a 10 month lease and you decided to move out after 5 months, you broke your lease. Unless you paid the fee to move-out early, you will feel the ramifications of what you just did.  

Your landlord will most likely report you to the credit bureaus. Once notified, this will negatively affect you in two ways. 

 

  1. You probably won’t be able to lease at any apartment in the future that requires good rental history. 
  2. Your credit score will take a hit. 

However, the landlord must also perform under the eyes of the law. There are certain situations that will allow you to “break the lease” without having to pay any penalties. However, you must prove that the landlord failed to provide this certain set of criteria in some cases.  You may find that these circumstances are very hard to achieve. 

It’s Not Safe

Certain situations may arise on the property that may make it simply not safe to live on the premises. The condition must affect your safety or your health. 

Let’s say that your apartment can only be accessed by a stairwell that has missing one or two missing stairs. Another scenario would be the lock on your front door has malfunctioned from normal wear and tear, making it impossible for you to lock your front door.  That would be a clear safety violation. 

Steps to Take

  • Tenant must notify landlord of situation 
  • Tenant may have to sent a certified letter notifying the landlord of safety issue if landlord fails to make repairs
  • The landlord must have had reasonable time to make repairs. Usually a certain amount of time will not be defined. However, about 7 days is usually plenty under the eyes of the law
  • Tenant must not be delinquent in rent paid

Stalking or Sexual Assault 

If you are a victim, or you are the parent of a victim of an (attempted) sexual assault, you have rights. Stalking might also be included in your states statute. However, you must follow certain guidelines in order to break your lease. 

In Texas, you must receive documentation of the incident from a licensed health care provider. 

You are in the Military 

If you are in the active military, then you are able to break your lease early. There usually is nothing more that you need to do. Proof of the government documentation may be required.  You won’t have to incur any fees for any future rent. A landlord who violates this statute may actually incur penalties. 

Of course you will want to have thorough proof if any of the above situations do occur. The appropriate documentation is warranted. 

*I am not a lawyer. If you encounter any of these above situations, you should consult with an attorney in order to see how best to move forward.