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When a tenant signs a lease, they agree upon terms regarding rent, utilities, fees and property rules for an extended period of time. However, that time can sometimes be cut short if a tenant needs to break their lease, potentially costing them thousands or having to deal with legal action taken by the landlord.

For a tenant who needs to break a lease, whatever the reason, it’s important to know the steps to take to avoid negative consequences.

First and foremost, review the rental agreement. Look for the section of the lease that details the regulations of terminating the agreement early. This may consist of hefty fees, such as the loss of your security deposit or possibly the cost of rent for the remaining months, especially if the tenant chooses to break the lease immediately. Some, however, may have other options, such as an early opt-out clause or the choice to sublet or re-let to another tenant. 

Whether or not you’ve found your answer in your written agreement, the next step would be to talk directly to the landlord. Keeping the lines of communication open and honest are the most important, especially when a lease agreement needs to be cut short. In a situation where a tenant may no longer be able to afford payments, for example, landlords may be able to offer a solution before termination. 

Being a landlord is a business, so it’s important to understand the importance of lease agreements and terms. If they aren’t willing to work with you financially, discuss subletting or offer to find a new renter to carry out the remainder of the lease. 

If none of these solutions pan out and there are no opt-out clauses in your lease, consider using the security deposit as a bargaining chip. By forfeiting this deposit, there is a chance to avoid other fees, such as paying out the remaining months or having to go to court and paying added legal fees. Because this is an expensive change for your landlord as well, be sure you’re prepared to take on the financial responsibility. 

Remember, though this is their business, landlords can be understanding as long as you are honest and transparent about why a signed rental agreement may need to be terminated early.