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How to Break a Lease Due to Job Relocation
A lease is a legal and binding contract between you and your landlord. If you need to relocate for a job, review your lease carefully to find any "escape" clauses or conditions that would allow you to break it with minimal consequences. Typically, you can't break a lease just because you need to move for a new job. It's up to the landlord to let you break the lease, so use diplomacy to attempt the best outcome. The sooner you approach your landlord about breaking your lease, the better your chances of minimizing the financial and legal fallout.
Enlisted military members can break their residential leases without fault when called to active duty. "To terminate the lease, the member must deliver written notice to the landlord at any time after call to active duty or receipt of orders for active duty." -- Justice.gov, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Review Your Lease Contract
A lease should list the requirements and penalties for moving early, explains Lori Snider on Myfirstapartment.com. A certain number of months' written notice -- up to two months -- might be required to withdraw from a lease, but you still might be required to pay fees of three months' rent or even more if you leave before the lease term ends: You might need to come up with the entire remaining rent that would have been paid during the lease term.
Reality Check: Your Landlord May Sue You
If you and your landlord can't agree on terms that allow you to break the lease with minimal financial loss to you, she could sue you even if you do have to move for a new job. To mitigate your losses, consult an attorney familiar with local landlord-tenant laws if you need to.
Typically, a landlord can only sue for the months the residence was empty after you moved, according to New York's Metropolitan Housing Council. So you may wish to have a close friend in the area or a neighbor keep track of how long the residence stays empty. In states where landlords must make an effort to find a new tenant, your local friends can scan apartment ads and real estate listings and look for yard or building "For Rent" signs at your old residence. Take screenshots, keep newspaper clippings and take photographs as proof of the landlord's efforts -- or lack of effort -- to find a new tenant should you need to appear in court.
Best Case Scenario: Approach Your Landlord Early
Give your landlord notice that you might be moving, even before you get a job offer.
Make negotiating the terms for breaking the lease part of the talk with your landlord. With a reasonable explanation, she may accept shorter notice and charge less money than is detailed in the lease. Get all terms for breaking the lease agreed upon between you and the landlord in writing.
Fact: New York is one of the states in which the landlord is not required to look for a new tenant when the previous one breaks a lease.
Sweeten the Deal
The majority of states require landlords to do their best to find a new tenant when a previous one breaks a lease, according to Nolo. Help your landlord succeed in landing a new tenant by preparing your apartment for showing. Clean the space thoroughly and keep it tidy until you move. Allow the landlord, or her real estate agent, to show the apartment as needed.
Alternatively, find a tenant to replace you. If the tenant qualifies for the apartment, your landlord may let you break the lease with minimal hassle or allow the new tenant to sublet the residence until your lease expires.
Maya Black has been covering business, food, travel, cultural topics and decorating since 1992. She has bachelor's degree in art and a master's degree in cultural studies from University of Texas, a culinary arts certificate and a real estate license. Her articles appear in magazines such as Virginia Living and Albemarle.