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How Can the Tenant Terminate the Legal Obligation of the Lease?

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Whenever you rent an apartment, you hope that you'll be happy living there, and that you'll be able to stay for as long as you need. Most of the time this works out well, but sometimes tenants need to leave.

Terminating the Legal Obligation of the Lease

In some circumstances, tenants can leave without worrying about paying the rent for the remaining months of the lease. The three instances in which this is possible are:

  • The landlord does not fulfill his legal obligation: The landlord must keep the rental property habitable by maintaining the premises and providing heat, and hot and cold running water. If he does not, then the tenants can leave without paying the rest of the rent. Of course, tenants first need to notify their landlord about the defect and give the landlord legally sufficient time to fix it, before considering breaking the lease. Tenants should take pictures of the defect and save any correspondence to and from the landlord so that they can prove the apartment was uninhabitable in case the landlord brings the case to court.
  • You found a replacement tenant: Sometimes you have to leave the apartment for some other reason -- like taking a new job, or to be closer to family. In these cases, you can try to find a new tenant to take over the rest of the lease. If the new tenant agrees to pay full rent, then the landlord is not in any worse position, and you typically do not have to worry about the rent. It should be noted, however, that unless subleases are allowed by your lease, your landlord may have a say in the qualifications of a potential renter.
  • The landlord agrees: Maybe you're leaving the apartment after staying there for a long time, and you've formed a good relationship with the landlord. Your landlord may just agree to let you leave before the end of your lease without paying the rest of the rent. If he does agree, try to get it in writing just in case you need to prove this agreement later.

If none of the above is a possibility, you can still break your lease. However, you may have to pay some or all of the remaining rent left on your lease should the landlord pursue the matter. The amount may vary depending on the state you live in, the type of lease you have (fixed-term or month-to-month), the terms of your lease, and the amount of time it takes for a landlord to find a new tenant to replace you.

See FindLaw's section on landlord-tenant law for more information.

Get Legal Help with Your Questions About Terminating the Legal Obligation of a Lease

There are plenty of reasons why a tenant may need to break a lease early, such as moving for a new job or a sudden change of finances. But regardless of the reason, landlords don't have to release you from your lease obligation in most cases. If you have questions about terminating the legal obligation of your lease, or need help protecting your rights as a tenant, you may want to contact a local landlord-tenant attorney who will be familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your area.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate any landlord-tenant issues.

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