The Grace Period to Terminate a Lease After Signing It

Lease contracts enable tenants to rent property for a fixed term.
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Once you've signed a lease agreement, you're legally bound to the terms of the lease for the entire duration of the lease term. However, some leases include a grace period for new tenants to terminate the lease early if needed. You'll need to read your lease carefully to determine whether this is the case.

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Lease Grace Period for Renters

The grace period for renters is typically three to five days, but it can vary depending on how your property manager has written your lease. It also may be impacted by your state laws, and you are not guaranteed a grace period at all. Most states do not offer legal protections for a grace period for breaking a lease.

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However, states often do offer a grace period for paying rent past the due date. In New York, for instance, you have five days after rent is due before you can be evicted or charged with breaking a lease, explains Caretaker.

Lease termination often requires written notice, so keep that in mind if you plan to leave. Note that other laws may apply; for instance, California laws state that the tenant must give the same amount of notice as the number of days between their rent payments. If you need to back out of your lease for any reason, you'll likely forfeit your security deposit and may be responsible for some or all of the remaining months' rent due under the lease. Terminating your lease during the grace period, if one is provided, is usually much easier than trying to break your lease later.

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Why Back Out of a Lease?

There are a number of reasons you may need or want to back out of your rental agreement. Maybe you've just landed a new job in a different city and need to move, or perhaps you're going through some personal problems and can no longer afford the rent.

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Sometimes, a victim of domestic violence needs to quickly leave a new apartment for their own protection after a period of time less than that of their rental lease. In many places, like California, victims of domestic violence, stalking or elder abuse have additional rights and may be able to get out of their lease early without repercussions, says Doug Anderson Property Management.

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Whatever the reason, if you need to break your lease, it's important to understand your rights and responsibilities under the law. A lease is a binding contract to which both parties have agreed. Otherwise, you could end up being sued by your property manager or being stuck in a lease you can't afford.

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How to Get Out of a Lease

  • Check your lease for a clause.​ The first step in ending your lease is to read your lease agreement carefully. Most leases will include a clause that outlines the grace period for early termination.
  • Check your state laws.​ If there is no such clause, then check your state laws to see how much notice you need to give. If this is outlined, be sure to follow these steps exactly. If you aren't sure that what's outlined in your lease follows the letter of the law in your jurisdiction, seek legal advice about ending your lease term.
  • Write to your property manager.​ Once you've determined the notice you need to give, the next step is to write a letter to your property manager informing them of your intent to break the lease. Be sure to include your name, address and the date of your lease agreement. In the letter, explain that you are exercising your right to lease termination during the grace period (if applicable) and state the date on which you will be moving out of your rental property.
  • Reach an agreement.​ If possible, it's always best to try and reach an agreement with your property manager before moving out. They may be willing to let you out of your lease without penalties if you find a replacement tenant or if you're willing to pay additional rent for breaking the lease early.
  • Adhere to the terms of the lease.​ If the property manager can't re-rent the real estate, you may be responsible for rent for the amount of time you did occupy the property. Either way, be sure to adhere to the terms of your lease and give proper notice before moving out. This will protect you from being sued or being responsible for unpaid rent.

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Security Deposits and Lease Ending

Do you get your security deposit if you end your lease agreement ahead of the lease term? In most cases, security deposits are refundable as long as you follow the rules set out in your lease agreement and leave the rental unit in good condition.

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However, this doesn't necessarily apply to ending tenancy early. If you break your lease early, you may forfeit your security deposit or be responsible for paying some or all of the remaining rent due under the lease. Be sure to check your lease agreement for any clause that outlines what happens to the security deposit if you need to break the lease early.

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If there is no such clause, then check your state security deposit laws to see if you'll be entitled to a refund. In most cases where you don't leave before the end of the lease, security deposits are only forfeited if you cause damage to the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear. But if you break your lease without cause and don't make reasonable efforts to re-rent the property, you may forfeit your security deposit or be responsible for paying the remaining rent due under the lease.

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When it comes to breaking a lease, it's always best to seek legal advice to understand your rights and responsibilities. A lawyer can help you determine the best way to proceed and can protect your interests.

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