How to Get Out of a Lease Early

Written by Sunny | Edited by Dr Katherine Blake
11 minute read
Sunny’s AI summary
Facing the need to terminate your lease early can be daunting, but armed with the right knowledge and strategies, the process can be smoother than expected. From understanding your lease terms to exploring legitimate reasons for lease termination, such as job relocation or financial difficulties, this guide covers essential steps and considerations. Learn how to communicate effectively with your landlord, explore alternative options like subletting, and utilize available resources and legal advice to navigate this challenging situation with confidence.


Ever found yourself staring at a lease agreement, feeling trapped and wondering if there’s a way out? You’re not alone. Many renters find themselves in situations where they need to consider early lease termination or breaking a lease due to unforeseen life changes or dissatisfaction with their current living situation. The process can seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and approach, navigating an early exit can be smoother than you think.

Whether it’s a job relocation, financial strain, or simply a desire for a change of scenery, our guide will help you understand your options so you can make an informed decision without unnecessary stress.

Understanding Your Lease

Before you attempt to terminate your lease, it’s crucial to read through your lease agreement. It’s the rulebook for your tenancy, outlining what you can and can’t do without facing penalties. Let’s dive into the key components that you should be familiar with.

Common Lease Terms Explained

  • Lease Term: The duration your lease agreement is effective, typically 12 months. Know when yours starts and ends to avoid confusion.
  • Early Termination Clause: This is your golden ticket. Not all leases have it, but if yours does, it outlines conditions under which you can end the lease early without facing the full wrath of penalties.
  • Notice Period: The amount of time you must give your landlord before leaving. Standard is usually 30 to 60 days, but check your lease for specifics.
  • Security Deposit: The money you paid upfront to cover any damages or unpaid rent. Understand the conditions under which you can get this back.

Understanding these terms and their implications in your unique situation is the first step in determining your best course of action.

The Importance of Early Termination Clauses and Notice Periods

How to Get Out of a Lease Early

Imagine you’ve landed your dream job, but there’s a catch—it’s across the country. Or perhaps, after a few months in your new apartment, you realize the “charming” neighborhood is more “chaotic” than you’d like. These are the moments when knowing the details of your lease pays off.

An early termination clause can provide a predefined way out, often involving a fee less severe than paying rent for the remaining term of the lease. Similarly, understanding the required notice period ensures you’re providing your landlord with enough time to find a replacement tenant, thereby reducing potential friction and additional costs.

Lease agreements are legally binding contracts. Once signed, both parties—the tenant and the landlord—are expected to uphold their end of the bargain. This legal foundation means that simply wanting out isn’t enough. There needs to be a legitimate reason or an agreed-upon exception within the lease itself.

Recognizing the legal weight of your lease highlights the importance of approaching early termination carefully and respectfully. It’s not just about what you want, but what’s fair and lawful for both parties involved.

Legitimate Reasons for Early Termination

Life has many plot twists, and it’s these unexpected changes that often necessitate a change in living situations, leading to the need for early lease termination.

Let’s delve into some of the legitimate reasons that might compel someone to break a lease early, and how these situations are handled legally and ethically.

Job Relocation

Job relocation is one of the most common grounds for early lease termination. Many lease agreements include clauses that accommodate such life changes, offering a way to exit the lease with minimal financial implications.

Financial Difficulties

Life isn’t always smooth sailing. Financial hardships such as job loss, significant reduction in income, or unexpected medical bills can make it challenging to meet rental obligations. In these situations, tenants may seek to terminate their lease early as a financial necessity.

Dissatisfaction with Premises

Sometimes, the dream apartment turns into a nightmare. Issues like persistent maintenance problems, safety concerns, or disputes with neighbors can make a living situation unbearable. When these issues are not adequately addressed by management, tenants may have a legal basis for breaking their lease under the doctrine of “constructive eviction.”

Several state laws provide protections for tenants needing to terminate their lease early under specific conditions. For instance, in Texas, tenants can legally break a lease if they are victims of domestic violence, have received military orders, or if the landlord fails to meet legal obligations regarding property conditions.

How to Get Out of a Lease Early

When it comes to early lease termination, understanding the legal and ethical landscape is just as important as knowing your rights. Each state has its own laws and regulations that can significantly impact the process.

To help you get a clearer picture, let’s dive into some state-specific scenarios, starting with Texas, and discuss the broader legal principles at play.

Early Lease Termination in Texas

In the Lone Star State, tenants have specific protections and obligations when it comes to ending a lease early. For example, Texas law allows for early termination without penalty under certain conditions such as:

  • Military Deployment: Servicemembers who receive orders for a permanent change of station or deployment for not less than 90 days are entitled to terminate their leases early.
  • Domestic Violence Victims: Tenants who are victims of domestic violence may terminate their leases early, provided they furnish the landlord with certain documentation, such as a protective order.
  • Landlord’s Failure to Maintain Premises: If your landlord neglects essential repairs that affect the habitability of the property, you might be entitled to break your lease under the “constructive eviction” principle.

Familiarize yourself with the local tenant laws in your state to get a more specific pathway for legally exiting your lease.

The Landlord’s Duty to Mitigate Damages

One ethical and legal principle that plays a significant role in early lease termination is the landlord’s duty to mitigate damages.

This means that if you break your lease, the landlord can’t just sit back and charge you rent for the remainder of the lease term. Instead, they are generally required to make reasonable efforts to re-rent the property and reduce the financial impact on you as the departing tenant. This principle encourages fairness and discourages landlords from penalizing tenants excessively for unforeseen life changes.

Communicating with Your Landlord

With the right approach, communicating with your landlord about early lease terminatio can turn into a constructive conversation that benefits both parties.

Here’s how to broach the subject with confidence and tact.

Script for Initiating the Conversation

Starting the conversation on the right note is crucial. Here’s a template you can adapt to your situation, ensuring you come across as respectful and understanding:

“Dear [Landlord’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I’m reaching out to discuss my current lease situation due to [briefly state your reason - job relocation, financial difficulties, etc.]. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed living in your property and have always strived to be a responsible and cooperative tenant.

Given my circumstances, I would like to explore the possibility of terminating my lease earlier than planned. I understand the implications this may have and am willing to discuss ways we can mitigate any inconvenience this may cause you, such as finding a suitable replacement tenant or covering necessary expenses.

I appreciate your understanding and am open to any suggestions you might have on how we can address this situation amicably. Let’s schedule a time to talk more about this in detail.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, [Your Name]”

Strategies for Honesty and Preparedness to Negotiate

When discussing early lease termination with your landlord, honesty is your best policy. Clearly explain your situation and the reasons behind your request.

Be prepared to negotiate terms that are fair to both you and your landlord. This could include offering to help find a new tenant, paying a portion of the remaining rent, or forfeiting your security deposit.

Alternative Options to Lease Termination

How to Get Out of a Lease Early

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, an early lease termination isn’t possible without facing steep penalties. But don’t pack your moving boxes in despair just yet! There are alternative routes that can lead to a satisfactory resolution for both you and your landlord.

Subletting: Your Lease’s Plan B

Subletting can be a lifesaver when you’re unable to terminate your lease early. It involves renting out your place to another tenant while you’re still legally responsible for the lease. Just make sure your lease agreement allows it, and communicate your plans with your landlord - they’ll appreciate the heads up!

Tips for Finding a Subletter:

  • Use social media and rental platforms to advertise your space.
  • Ask friends or family if they know anyone looking for a place.
  • Be clear about the subletting terms in your advertisement to attract the right candidates.

Lease Transfers: Passing the Baton

Another option is a lease transfer or lease takeover, where you find someone to take over your lease entirely. This person becomes the new tenant, relieving you of your obligations under the lease. Like subletting, you’ll need your landlord’s approval to transfer your lease.

What to Include in a Lease Transfer Agreement:

  • The transfer date and the remaining lease term.
  • A clause that releases you from all responsibilities related to the lease after the transfer.
  • Any terms concerning the security deposit and last month’s rent.

Negotiating a Lease Buyout

If subletting or transferring your lease isn’t feasible, consider negotiating a lease buyout with your landlord. This involves paying a lump sum to end the lease early, which can be less than the total rent owed for the remaining term.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the complexities of ending a lease early can be challenging, but once you’re free, the next step is finding a new place that truly feels like home.

Our AI-powered apartment-finding platform is here to help. Tailored to your specific needs and preferences, our platform ensures that your next rental is a perfect match, avoiding the need for future complications. Whether you’re looking for a shorter lease term, specific amenities, or a pet-friendly environment, start your search with us.


Q: Can I break my lease if I buy a house? A: Buying a house is an exciting milestone, but it doesn’t automatically grant you a get-out-of-lease-free card. Whether you can break your lease without penalty depends on the terms of your lease agreement and local laws. Some leases may have a clause that allows for early termination in the event of purchasing a home, but this is not common. It’s crucial to talk to your landlord and possibly negotiate an exit strategy that works for both parties.

Q: What happens if I break my lease and don’t pay? A: Breaking your lease and walking away without settling up can lead to serious consequences. Your landlord has the right to pursue the remaining rent, and this could result in legal action against you. It could also negatively impact your credit score and make it difficult for you to rent in the future. It’s always best to discuss your situation with your landlord and try to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Q: How to break a lease due to job relocation? A: Job relocation is a common reason for needing to break a lease early. First, check your lease for any early termination clauses that may apply to your situation. If there’s no specific clause, talk to your landlord. Many landlords are understanding of job relocations and may be willing to work with you, especially if you provide sufficient notice and help find a replacement tenant.

Q: Can a landlord refuse to let me break my lease? A: Yes, if your lease does not include an early termination clause and your reason for leaving does not qualify under local tenant protection laws, your landlord can refuse to let you break your lease early. However, landlords are also required to mitigate damages by attempting to re-rent the unit rather than charging you for the remaining lease term without making an effort to fill the vacancy.

Q: What are the penalties for breaking a lease early? A: Penalties for breaking a lease early can vary widely depending on your lease agreement and local laws. Common penalties include losing your security deposit, having to pay the rent for the remaining lease term, or being required to pay an early termination fee. Understanding the specific terms of your lease is crucial to gauging the potential penalties.

How to Get Out of a Lease Early
Meet our contributors
Dr Katherine Blake
Dr Katherine Blake
Content Editor
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List and Sunny, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Holding a PhD in English Literature from Indiana University, Dr. Blake is not only adept at creating compelling narratives but also brings over a decade of experience as an academic researcher.
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