What Happens If You Break A Lease

Break My Lease What Happens If You Break A Lease

What Happens When You Break Your Lease?

If you're renting a private property, you likely have a binding lease agreement that makes it costly to end the tenancy. So you're wondering what happens when you break your lease and whether there are ways to avoid the fees. 

Lucky for you, some ways can potentially allow you to end the tenancy with minimal losses or without paying anything at all. For example, you can declare a constructive eviction, point out landlord breaches, and so on. You can also go the easy way and use services like DoNotPay to end your lease.

DoNotPay is a legal chatbot that helps tenants break a lease without penalty or minimal losses. It also provides insights into legal reasons to break a leasethe cost of breaking a leasebreaking lease and credit score, and how to break a lease without penalty.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities When Signing Lease

The law imposes several duties on the landlord. These include possession, noninterference with use, and habitable conditions. It also gives the tenant a number of corresponding rights. You may have a valid reason to break a lease if:

  • The landlord violates the rule of entry or harasses you: The landlord shouldn't walk onto your property without notice as specified in the tenancy agreement. If they have to enter, they need to give at least 24 hours' notice. Additionally, the landlord must have a legal reason to enter, like making repairs, inspecting the unit, or showing it to prospective tenants.
  • You're a victim of domestic violence: If you are a domestic violence victim, you may have a right to end your lease agreement without penalty. Most states include a domestic violence victim protection clause in their landlord-tenant laws.
  • Illegal apartment: You can also break the lease without penalty if the unit you're renting is illegal. While each state has different laws, you're usually eligible for the return of at least some part of the rent you've paid throughout the lease. Sometimes, the landlord may need to give you money that you can use to find another unit to rent.
  • Property violates habitability standards: Landlords need to keep the property in good condition. They have to ensure that you can access clean running water and that there are proper trash cans for garbage. Landlords should also perform repairs, keep common areas clean and follow health and safety codes.
  • You're an active-duty military: The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) protects an active-duty military. So if you are one and get a change of station orders, you may end your lease.

If your rights have been violated, you may have legal grounds to break the lease without attracting any penalty. However, there are cases when you may not have the legal right to end the lease but still have to break it. For example, when you lose your job or get a divorce, etc., in such a situation, you may talk to the landlord and request a favorable arrangement. Better yet, many states need a landlord to make "reasonable efforts" to rent the property once you end the contract. This means you'll only pay for the time the property went unfiled.

Reasons That Can't Be Used to Break a Lease

You cannot break a lease for reasons such as:

  • You are moving in with a partner and no longer need the old apartment.
  • You are downgrading or upgrading.
  • You are relocating to a new school or job – unless you're in the military.
  • You bought a house and want to move in.
  • You're relocating to be closer to your loved ones.

What Happens When You Break Your Lease?

A lease is a legal contract, so breaking it comes with inherent risks. The consequences of breaking a lease are not just financial but can also extend into legal action and impact you as a future renter. They include:

  1. Hefty fines: Signing a lease means agreeing to pay a certain amount in exchange for occupancy over a specified time. When you break the lease, you may attract fines, which may equal one or two months' rent. In some cases, you may need to cover rent for the rest of your lease term, irrespective of whether you're using the unit or not. If you paid a security deposit, you might have to sacrifice that too.
  2. Face lawsuitIf your landlord is litigious, you could get sued for early termination of lease. But you can avoid this by making sure you pay any fees and rent (even when you move out). Basically, you want to understand the guidelines for breaking the lease and sticking to them.
  3. Negative credit scores: Breaking a lease could hurt your credit score. A negative credit score makes it hard to get new loans, buy cars, etc.
  4. Trouble renting another property: Breaking a lease can strike future landlords as a red flag – especially if it ended contentiously. When potential landlords realize you broke your lease, they may not want to take a chance on renting to you.

Breaking a lease doesn't mean not being able to rent a property in the future. But you'll need to be open and honest with any prospective landlord and explain why you ended the lease. If you had good intentions, did everything by the book, and ended the contract on a good note, it could be a chance to show that you're a reliable tenant.

Breaking Leases By State

TexasCaliforniaNew York
IllinoisNorth CarolinaOhio
GeorgiaVirginiaWashington State
ColoradoNew JerseyPennsylvania
South CarolinaMinnesota Alabama
Washington DCKansasKentucky
LouisianaNew MexicoArkansas
HawaiiUtahWest Virginia
New HampshireNebraskaMaine
IdahoSouth DakotaNorth Dakota
VermontRhode IslandMississippi

How Can DoNotPay Help

Breaking a lease can be easy or hard, depending on the situation and your landlord. But some legal issues tend to complicate the process further. Through the Break My Lease product, DoNotPay can help in various ways, ensuring you break a lease without penalties or losing too much money in fees and fines. All you have to do is:

Here's how you can get started in 3 easy steps:

  1. Search Break My Lease on DoNotPay. 
  2. Prepare a signed copy of your lease that you can use as a reference and enter the state the lease was signed in. 
  3. Let us guide you through the 4 potential options. 
  • If you're a uniformed service member breaking a lease to fulfill your service obligations, we'll send your landlord an SCRA Protection Letter.
  • If you're breaking your lease for a reason protected by your state's tenant laws, we'll write your landlord a letter detailing your protections for breaking the lease under the relevant law.
  • If your reasons for breaking your lease aren't protected by federal or state law but you'd like to try to convince your landlord to let you break the lease through mutual agreement, we'll draft a hardship letter making your case to your landlord.
  • If there are no remaining options for breaking the lease with protection but your state requires landlords to mitigate damages to tenants who break their leases, we'll notify your landlord of that obligation and minimize the remaining rent you have to pay.

DoNotPay Works Entities With a Click of a Button

DoNotPay can help you break the lease easily. However, this is not the only thing we can help you with. We can also resolve a range of other issues across different entities, groups, and companies, including:

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