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Breaking a Lease to Take a Job

I received a job offer in another state. If I take the job, I will have to break my lease. Can I break my lease to accept a new job?

Breaking a lease to take a job is not a valid reason for terminating a lease early. There are only a few reasons a tenant can legally break a lease. Some states, for instance, allow a tenant to end a lease early because of health problems or in order to move to an assisted care facility for the elderly. All states allow for the breaking of a lease when a tenant enlists in the military. Federal law permits a tenant that enters the military after signing a lease to terminate it early by providing written notice to the landlord.

A Tenant's Obligation

A lease is difficult to break because it is a legally enforceable contract. A lease agreement obligates the tenant to pay a fixed rent for the number of months specified in the terms of the agreement. The fixed rent is divided by the number of months and is payable in monthly installments. Therefore, when a tenant breaks a lease, the tenant is still responsible for the entire rent.

The Landlord Must Mitigate the Damages

In most states, a landlord must mitigate the damages by attempting to rerent the property after a tenant breaks a lease. If the tenant is still residing in the rental unit, it is best for them to accommodate requests from the landlord to show the property to prospective tenants. The landlord, however, does not have to rent to unqualified tenants or rent the property at below the fair market value.

If the landlord does not attempt to rerent the property but chooses to sue the tenant instead, most courts will not award a landlord the entire balance left on the lease. Instead, it will make a determination of when the landlord would reasonably have been able to rerent the property. The tenant will be responsible for paying damages for the time between the termination date and the re-rental date determined by the court.

If the landlord re-rents the property, the tenant is only responsible for paying for the time the rental was vacant.

Find a New Tenant to Rent the Property

A tenant may also attempt to find a replacement tenant to rent the property. The landlord is not under any obligation to rent to this prospective tenant; however, if the landlord declines to rent to a qualified tenant and later sues the tenant, a court may rule for the tenant because the landlord refused to mitigate the damages.

Negotiate with the Landlord

A tenant may offer the landlord a lease buyout. Buying out a lease simply means paying the landlord money in exchange for an agreement to release the tenant from the lease early. For example, a tenant may pay a month's rent in exchange for the landlord's agreement. The agreement should be in writing and should include a clause stating that the tenant is breaking a lease agreement by moving out early and that the landlord agrees to the termination in exchange for monetary compensation.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you
navigate any landlord-tenant issues.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

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