What Happens When You Break Your Lease?

What happens when you break a lease depends on the terms of the original lease agreement. Some landlords adhere strictly to this agreement. Others may consider why you are breaking the lease, how long you have lived in the property, how the property has been maintained while you lived there, how much notice you give the landlord and the condition of the property when you leave.

Lease Terms

A complete understanding of the terms and conditions is vital when negotiating a termination of a lease. Some leases state a financial responsibility if not completed to term. A landlord has the right to enforce these fee payments. Such fees include loss of rent and costs of finding a new tenant. Other expenses a landlord passes on to the tenant include painting, cleaning, trash hauling, carpet cleaning and repairs necessary to prepare for a new occupant. When a lease is broken, all security deposits are usually forfeited.

Landlord Rights

If the fees are not paid in accordance with the lease, a landlord has the right to legally pursue the funds owed him. Depending on the amount and local laws, this is usually in a small claims court. With proper documentation, a landlord could get a judgment for the full amount plus any legal fees incurred. If still not paid in a timely manner, it can go to collection and become a part of your permanent record, which hurts your credit. Most rental companies consider collections from another landlord an automatic denial.


Communicating with your landlord can help avoid costly mistakes. Landlords understand job, health and family challenges that create a need for change. A properly prepared explanation of why the lease must be broken often leads to a compromise that satisfies all parties involved.

Carefully organize a termination notice that documents why you must leave and when you will vacate the property. State that you will leave the property in good condition so your landlord will not incur additional expenses. This notice should be given in writing at least 30 days prior to vacating. If you can show a landlord that you understand his situation, he is more likely to work with you in yours.