How to Break Your Lease Without Pissing Off Your Landlord

by Kevin on May 20, 2011

So we bought a house. That means we no longer need to use the town house we signed a 12 month lease on back on the last day of last year. We need to break our lease.

There are a few main ways to break your lease: in a way that really, really ticks off your landlord, and one that is more an amicable parting of ways. I think we all want the second one… but how?

How to Break Your Lease Peacefully

Making your landlord mad is a recipe for stress. Your landlord may come after you for additional rent, damages they “discovered” after you moved out, or even potentially report you to a credit agency. The better way is to find an end to your time renting as peacefully as possible.

Know Your Lease

The first key is to know your lease. Yes, that stack of papers with potentially fine print that you skimmed through when you first signed up for a lease? Those papers are kind of important now. They detail out the process of canceling your term early, what steps you need to take and what fees you need to pay.

Our lease was with a direct owner of the property rather than an apartment complex. Thankfully, he had a pretty simple lease with simple terms. We need to provide 60 days notice (which goes into effect the last day of the month it is received), forfeit our small security deposit, pay for any damages, and leave the place in ready-to-rent condition.

When we started looking for homes we knew what would happen if we broke our lease. There are no surprises: the lease is a contract that both parties agreed to. We’re more than willing to forfeit a few hundred bucks to get out of a lease and into a home. Simple decision.

Provide More Notice Than Required

Remember, you’re trying to work together with your landlord to an amicable end to your time in their rental property. Give them as much notice as humanly possible. If you call them on the last day of the month and say you’ve moved out and aren’t wanting to pay rent (or penalties) as dictated in your lease agreement… they’re going to be justifiably mad.

Instead, give them as much notice as possible. Our lease required a 60 day notice effective at the end of the month. Instead of waiting until then, we put in our notice today. We’ve given our landlord an extra 13 days to prepare for the property to be vacant. And guess what? Our landlord appreciated it.

Live and Leave It Clean

The best tenants treat your home like their own. They care for it, they clean it regularly, and they don’t do things that destroy it. Bad tenants never clean, let insects and dirt inside, and trash the property.

Which tenants are you?

Essentially, don’t be a jerk. Treat the rental unit as if it were your own. Or better yet, since some of us are slobs and don’t treat our own things very well, treat it like it is owned by someone you respect that is just letting you stay there a while.

Our Landlord’s Response

I sent our landlord an email this morning detailing my understanding of our lease and the clause included for early termination. I quoted it in the email line by line for clarity’s sake, then wrote another set of bullet points that mimicked the clause but with my understanding of what we needed to do.

I also offered, as an act of good faith, to send photos of the place in “staged” condition to help re-list (and hopefully re-rent) the place. I also offered to go ahead and send checks for our June rent, July rent, and the early termination fee costs. I told the landlord I understood that our security deposit would be held until the unit was inspected and it was determined that no additional fees for damage would be charged to us.

In the end it seems to have been an amicable end to our time here. We still have another two months or so before we formally move out, but we’re hopeful everything goes as smooth as possible.

{ 3 comments }

Contra May 22, 2011 at 9:27 am

Congrats on the new house!

No Debt MBA May 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm

We’ve found that finding someone to take over your lease is usually an easy way to get out if your lease makes it difficult. Landlords are much more amicable when they don’t have to worry about an empty unit losing money.

Congrats!

John Barthel July 28, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Another way is if your landlord is also a real estate agent and use him/her, like we did. He got his half of the commission instead of rent, and let us go.

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