Reasons to Break a Lease

While there are many motives to break a lease, not all of them are legal.  There’s a reason you signed that document stating that you’d pay rent for a particular period of time, after all.  If your desire to leave your living situation is nothing more than primadonna flip-flopping (“I’m just bored of the view!”), you’ll probably be liable to pay your landlord for the remainder of your lease, or at least until she can find a new tenant.  In some instances, however, you are legally justified to leave early without financial penalty:

Your apartment is uninhabitable

…and, no, not because your neighbors are ugly.  Although “habitable” is subject to interpretation, it generally means that appliances function and the unit is safe.  Hazardous, or uninhabitable, situations include broken locks, rank smells (okay, this is where your neighbors might come in), issues with noise, mold, broken windows, and pest infestations.

You have a “profound change of life

Interestingly, this does not include divorce or changing jobs.  It may include death (well, especially your own), serious illness and hospitalization, prison, insanity, or moving to an assisted living facility. We hope none of these is the case for you. Some states also allow lease breaking after call to active duty.  Bankruptcy—whether your own or your landlord’s—may also release you from your lease.

Your apartment isn’t up to code

Maybe you didn’t notice when you moved in, but your “apartment” is actually a backyard shed without its own bathroom; when you do notice, and realize your unit doesn’t qualify as legal, you should move out.

The property manager fails to fulfill promises

If your landlord made promises (e.g. new carpet, My Little Pony wallpaper) in writing and has failed to make good on them despite you raising the issue, you’re justified in packing your bags.

Additionally, some leases have an automatic renewal policy; read the document carefully and know what you’re signing up for—and how you can get out of it.

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