Breaking your apartment lease to take a job is not a valid legal reason for terminating a lease early. There are only a few reasons a tenant can legally break a lease.
Landlord-tenant laws in 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. Other state laws allow breaking a lease if the tenant is a victim of domestic violence. All states, and federal law, allow for the breaking of a lease when a tenant enlists for active duty in military service.
Some rental agreements also have an early termination clause which allows the renter to break the lease early after they give sufficient written notice.
But what do you do if none of these reasons apply to you?
A lease is difficult to break because it is a legally enforceable contract. A lease agreement obligates the renter 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 rent payments. Therefore, when a tenant breaks a lease, the tenant is still responsible for payment on the remainder of the lease.
There are some things, however, that can reduce the amount of money you owe to your landlord. Your landlord or you may find someone else to rent the property, or you can try to negotiate a lease buyout.
In most states, a landlord must, through reasonable efforts, mitigate the damages by attempting to rerent the property after a tenant breaks a lease. If the tenant is still living in the rental unit, it is best for them to welcome 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 find a new renter but chooses to sue the tenant instead, most courts will not award a landlord the entire balance left on the lease. Instead, they will make a determination of when the landlord would reasonably have been able to rent 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.
A tenant may try subletting the property, if the lease allows it. They may also try to find a replacement tenant to rent the property. The landlord is not under any duty to rent to this prospective tenant. However, if the landlord refuses 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.
A tenant may offer the landlord a lease buyout. Buying out a lease simply means paying the landlord money in return for an agreement to release the tenant from the lease early. For example, a tenant may pay a month's rent or allow the landlord to keep the security deposit in exchange for the landlord's agreement.
The agreement should be in writing and should include a clause stating that the tenant is breaking the lease agreement by moving out early and that the landlord agrees to the termination in exchange for a payment.
You might have accepted your dream job, but your duty to pay the rent on the remaining months on your lease may still remain. Whether it's because of a new job or you have another reason, if you're considering lease termination, it's a good idea to speak with a skilled landlord-tenant attorney to get proper legal advice and to learn about your rights and duties to your landlord.