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. Leases are subject to numerous federal, state, and local laws that must also be considered.
The need to end a lease prematurely is a frequent issue. Whatever the reason, whether it be a new job, the need for more space, a student transfer from school, or that your roommate bailed, this happens a lot. How can this be done without breaking the lease and being sued by the landlord? How can a tenant negotiate honestly and fairly with the landlord who may be afraid of losing income?
- By agreement. Honestly and humble communication between the landlord and tenant, especially with a proposal to mitigate the impact on the landlord may be the best option. A tenant offering to pay for advertising and other expenses may go a long way to convincing the landlord to allow termination of 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, the tenant remains liable for damage and rent even though the tenant is no longer living on the premises. (A sub-lease differs from a lease assignment in this way.)
- 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 thirty days or which materially affect health and safety, state law may also provide a method to cancel the lease, or to make the repairs and then deduct the cost from the rent. 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, an attorney should be consulted to discuss your particular situation. Contact us to schedule an appointment.