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I recently moved out of my parents house into my own apartment. I moved in the apartment in May. I signed a one year lease but I'm having a really difficult time, financially speaking. I can pay the rent but I am often not having enough money for food or gas and just basic expenses. It was probably a bad idea to move out like this but there's nothing I can do about it now.

My lease ends May 2015 and right now it's July 2014. How can I tell my landlord that I am wishing to terminate my lease early? I'm really not good at these type of things and I want to do it right. I really like my landlord but she's not struggling like I am. If I move out, I won't hurt her financially, but if I stay, I'll keep living like a poor man.

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Where are you located? –  BrenBarn Jul 22 at 1:56
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Does she hold a month security deposit? Her own finances really have nothing to do with the situation. If she were struggling would you somehow keep your end of the deal and stay for the full term of the lease? –  JoeTaxpayer Jul 22 at 2:07
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What does your lease say? Talk to a lawyer if you have concerns. Of course, that usually means paying a small consultation fee which means more money. Lesson learned. I suggest taking on additional part-time work to pay your bills. –  staticx Jul 22 at 10:34

3 Answers 3

It depends on the terms of the lease, but it's hard to imagine a lease that would allow to do this unilaterally with no strings attached. That means it actually depends not on how much you like your landlady, but on how much she likes you.

In general, by signing the lease you assume a contractual obligation to pay the rent every month for the entire term of the lease. In theory, you can be sued if you don't do that.

In practice, a lot depends on your relationship with your landlord, as well as the rental market in your area. If the landlord can easily find a replacement tenant, they may be willing to allow you to leave early. If the rental market is slow, they will be more likely to hold you to the agreement. Obviously, if you have a good relationship with the landlord, they may be more inclined to go easy on you.

As far as telling your landlady you want to terminate the lease early, unless she's a particularly nasty person, you can just go ahead and tell her you'd like to leave early. What you can't do is actually stop paying rent. If you're on reasonably good terms with your landlady, you could just tell her your situation and say you'd like to move out. She may be willing to work out an arrangement where she lists the apartment while you're still living there, allows prospective tenants to view it while it's occupied, and then has you move out if and when someone else wants to move in (e.g., at the end of the month). Again, exactly how this works will probably depend on the rental market.

Assuming you're in the USA, here is a useful page with some info on breaking a lease. As mentioned there, the legal details vary by state.

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+1 for mentioning someone else could move in just as you move out. Helps everyone involved, especially if the tenant helps with making a new potential client feel welcome! –  Canadian Luke Jul 22 at 16:06
    
I'd love to tell her as soon as possible but I'm usually not good when it comes to these things. What do you advice that I tell her? How do I say it? When I signed the lease, she told me that if I was planning on just staying for a few months to not rent it. At the time, I didn't know it would be this hard. –  cecilgraham Jul 22 at 21:44

If you help find a suitable next tenant and help smooth out the transition, most landlord generally don't have an issue to terminate the lease early, and move the contract to the new tenant. Remember that the biggest concerns for landlords is that they don't want the place to be empty (leaving an apartment empty costs them money due to tax, strata, bills, etc as well as putting in jeopardy whatever future plans they might have made under the assumption of a stable income from the rent). You could also offer to pay for the listing agent and other switching fees (e.g. putting bills under the new tenant's name, etc). If you don't have an early termination clause the rental agreement, or sometimes even when you do, these things are often negotiable.

If you can guarantee that your leave won't leave them with an empty apartment with no-one paying rentals, most reasonable landlords wouldn't have issue with terminating early.

Many rental agreements also have terms regarding early terminations. This usually involves paying a fee which amounts to a month or two of rent. This may vary.

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+1. From my experience, finding someone else (who is reliable) to take over your lease is good enough for most landlords. As long as the work and costs of finding a new, good, tenant are not on the landlord, and the unit doesn't sit empty and not earning money, they are OK with it. –  Jayraj Jul 22 at 18:06

It may depend on the rental agreement you signed, some agreements may include clauses that allow for early termination so check your agreement carefully.

Where there is an early termination clause included it will usually have some sort of notice period or financial penalty associated with it. For example you may have to give a couple of months notice and pay rent up to the end of that period or be able to pay some sort of one-off penalty.

As a more practical example I broke a US rental agreement early last Autumn and had two early termination options in my rental agreement:

  • Continue to pay the rent until the end of the lease or the landlord obtains a new tenant and that tenants rental agreement starts
  • Pay 1 months additional rent as a termination fee

In my case we chose the second option since we were actually moving out of the country and it was easier to have our US finances completely settled.

I'm now planning on breaking another agreement because I'm in the process of purchasing a property and the purchase will likely go through before the lease expires. In this case the early termination clause requires 2 months notice i.e. we will have to give 2 months notice and pay rent for those two months (unless we are less than 2 months from the end of the lease).

As @BrenBarn points out you should also check the laws for the jurisdiction your rental agreement is in to understand what your rights and options are if your agreement does not have an early termination clause

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