What Is Considered Breaking a Lease?

Breaking a lease may hurt your credit score.

Leases are legal contracts between a lessor -- the person who owns the rented property -- and the lessee. Most leases have set terms, such as the time period of the rental and payment amounts. These contracts are often used when renting an apartment or house, and they are legally binding. Many people want to move out early due to unforeseen life circumstances, such as a new job or wanting to leave a roommate or live-in relationship arrangement.


Definition of a Broken Lease

A broken lease occurs when one of the contract parties, the lessor or the lessee, terminates the agreement before all pre-set terms are met. For example, if you are renting an apartment in a one-year lease, but you move out at nine months and are only paid up for nine months, you are breaking the lease. On the other side, if the lessor has agreed to rent you his house for six months, sells it to an external buyer after only three months and you have to move out early, the lessor has broken the lease terms agreement.


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Reasons to Break a Lease

There are many extenuating circumstances for breaking a lease or terminating the lease agreement early. Some property management companies will work with you in certain cases, while others will not bend the rules for anyone. Only two major ways exist to get out a lease early legally, including military service and death. Other than that, it is up to the leasing office to let you out of one early. Job transfers, divorce or losing your job are not valid legal reasons to break a lease.


How to Do It

If you aren't being shipped abroad to serve a military tour and you're still breathing, you might still have a few choices for getting out of your lease early. Most of these legal contracts have set terms about what happens if you want to end the agreement early. For example, some allow you to pay a re-letting fee, which is usually around 75 percent of the remaining rent owed. Other properties may allow you to sublet your rental unit, which means you find and qualify another renter to live there. In this case, your name will still be on the lease and you will be held responsible for any damage or fees.



Some management companies will require you to pay 100 percent of your remaining rent due, even if you move out months in advance of the end of the agreement. In these cases, it may be more fiscally responsible to stay put. If you're breaking your lease for a job transfer, your company may pay the fees for you. If you move out without giving notice or paying a fee, then the property company will most likely report you to the credit bureau, and you'll probably have a difficult time renting in the future.