WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT OR NEED OUT OF A LEASE AGREEMENT
A lease is a contract. While contract law allows the parties a great deal of latitude to determine the terms of the leasing agreement, there are certain requirements and obligations that cannot be waived or changed. A commercial lease agreement in Mississippi is subject to the Mississippi Landlord and Tenant Act, Mississippi Code § 89-7-1 et seq. A residential lease agreement is subject to both the Mississippi Landlord-Tenant Act and the Mississippi Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Mississippi Code § 89-8-1 et seq. The lease agreement may also be subject to local ordinances. For instance, in Oxford, Mississippi, there is an ordinance limiting the number of unrelated persons who may live in a house.
A frequent issue in Oxford is the need to end a lease prematurely. Students transfer, professors or spouses take a new job, or a roommate flunks out because they spend too much time at The Library than at JD Williams Library. Whatever the reason, it is not at all uncommon to need to get out of a lease early. How can this be done without breaking the lease and being sued by the landlord? Here are some ways:
- By agreement. Honestly and humbly approaching the landlord with your situation and a proposal to mitigate the impact on the landlord may be your best option. Offering to pay for advertising and other expenses may go a long way to convincing the landlord to allow you to terminate the lease early without liability. While leasing is a business, not all landlords are driven by only the (financial) bottom line.
- By finding a suitable sub-lessee. While it is common for a lease to prohibit unauthorized sub-leasing, it is debatable whether a lease agreement can prohibit all sub-leasing. A landlord should make reasonable effort to mitigate its damages and this may include accepting a qualified sub-lessee. There may be a fee for the extra trouble to the landlord. Also keep in mind that with a sub-lease, you remain liable for damage and rent even though you are no longer living on the premises. (A sub-lease differs from a lease assignment.)
- By law. Members of the military are protected by The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) which allows them to terminate a lease agreement if deployed for more than 90 days.
- If the need to terminate the lease stems from maintenance issues, especially those which go unrepaired in excess of 30 days or which materially affect health and safety, Mississippi law provides a method to cancel the lease. This option should be carefully considered and all legal requirements strictly followed.
There may be other ways to terminate a lease but these are the most common. As always, consult an attorney to discuss your particular situation. Contact us to discuss your situation.