What Happens If You Break An Apartment Lease?

A new job in another state just popped up, or you are making a big decision to move in with someone in your life. It's time for you to move on from the apartment you're leasing now, but you're not sure what to expect since your lease isn't up. Breaking an apartment lease means you want to end the lease early, before the scheduled end of the lease term.

You may be worried about having a conversation with your landlord, but in some situations, your landlord may agree to allow you to go without negative repercussions, says Nolo. That's most likely to happen when it's easy for your landlord to find a new tenant, such as in areas with a shortage of rental housing options or plenty of applicants ready to lease.

What happens, then, though? Even if your landlord agrees to end the lease early, there could be repercussions for you when this happens.

You'll likely pay a fine

If your landlord allows you to break the lease, you'll likely have to pay a fee. That's usually in the form of losing the security deposit you paid at the start of the lease term, or, in some cases, you may pay fines equal to one or two months' worth of rent, according to Rent.com.

To find out what to expect in your case, read through your lease agreement. This is a legally binding contract, and you'll need to abide by its terms and conditions (that you likely signed and agreed to at the start of your lease period).

Thinking about not making those payments? You could face penalties and fines if you don't, including legal action taken against you by the landlord. That could make it harder for you to find an affordable apartment to rent later because you may not have positive references to rely on.

Protect yourself through this process

Good communication with your landlord is essential, but be sure to get everything they agree to or promise in writing, says Credit.com. You'll want a record indicating the landlord agreed to allow you to break the lease and the terms of doing so in the case of a verbal agreement. That will help you later, should you have to go to court due to claims made against you by the landlord.

Be sure to create a timeline that outlines when you talked to your landlord, what they said, and the documentation you received, such as a letter indicating you could break the lease. If you're not sure if you can get out of it or what the outcome could be, speak to an attorney about your apartment lease. You may find that there are options within your lease to help you break it based on circumstances, such as employment or a change in your household (such as a divorce or having a child).