Perhaps you get a new job in a new city. Maybe you close on your dream home before your current lease is up. Whatever the reason, sometimes life demands breaking a lease early. Before taking any steps, you should know what your lease says, how to sublet your apartment and your renter's rights.

Read your lease and talk to your landlord

Your lease is a legally binding agreement with your landlord that states you will inhabit and pay for a rental property for an established amount of time – usually 12 months. Most leases usually include an “early termination clause,” “opt-out clause” or a lease termination section.1 This part of the contract details whether breaking your lease is possible and under what conditions. If the lease doesn’t permit early termination, your next step is to talk to your landlord and discuss the situation.1 Your landlord may be willing to allow it if you have a good relationship and if you offer to help find a suitable tenant to sign a new lease. Or, your landlord may have a waiting list of renters interested in the apartment, so it’s worth having a conversation upfront.

Consider subletting

If you can’t find someone to sign a new lease, your landlord may allow you to sublet for the remainder of the lease.2 Be sure to discuss this option with your landlord before moving forward with the subletting process. Subletters often are looking for a short-term and cost-effective housing option. Typically, 70 to 80 percent of your rent is the going rate when subletting.2 Work with your landlord to establish the subletting terms:

  • Specify the dates of the sublet
  • Outline rental responsibilities
  • List rent amount and due dates

At the end of the day, the signed agreement is between you and the subletter because all liability for the rental still belongs to you.2 That’s why it’s important not to overlook insurance considerations when subletting. Contact your insurance provider to find out how your coverage may be impacted, and consult with a legal representative as well for further guidance. Be sure to choose your subletter wisely, and consider asking for a security deposit in case anything happens.2

Know the risks

If you don’t have a legal reason to break your lease and your landlord won’t reach a compromise otherwise, you could face costly repercussions for moving out early:

  • Your landlord could sue you for the remainder of the rent owed on the lease, even in states where re-renting is required if they can’t find a tenant.3
  • Your landlord may use your security deposit to cover the costs of re-renting your unit.3
  • Your credit score may take a hit if your landlord sues or reports a delinquent rent balance to the credit bureaus.4

If you want to break your lease but are concerned about legal and financial repercussions, talk to a legal professional. They can help you understand your state’s laws and what options are available to you. Speaking openly with your landlord, finding someone to take over your current lease and knowing your rights as a renter are just some of the ways you can make this transition a little easier.

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