There are a number of reasons that one might have to cancel their lease on an apartment. Perhaps you are moving for work or family. Maybe you simply want to move to a better apartment. Maybe you’ve sadly become unable to make the payments. Regardless of the reason, it’s a stressful move.
You’re going to have to deal with your landlord and likely negotiate an agreement, unless it is clearly stated in your lease. The ease with which one cancels a lease is largely dependent on what sort of lease you got yourself into when you signed it. Dependent on the literature, and the temperament of your landlord, you might not like the outcome.
Make Sure You’re Doing This for Good Reasons
There’s no way to sugar coat it. Getting out of a lease can be a headache. You’re trying to get out of a legally binding contract. Unless your landlord lets you off the hook, it doesn’t hurt to really evaluate whether it’s worth the hassle. If the financial incentives of getting out of the lease truly outweigh the headache that might be incurred, then proceed.
If canceling your lease has less to do with your finances or a career move, and more to do with the condition of the property and/or actions of the landlord, you may have a better case to work with.
Review Your Lease
The terms and wording of the lease will make or break you. Ideally, you went over this with great detail before you originally signed it. If so, you’ll already know whether there is any rhetoric on cancellations/breaking the lease.
Any clauses relating to exiting a lease before agreed-upon term is up, and penalties for such a breach are prudent information to have before speaking with your landlord. If these are already listed and agreed upon, you can weigh the costs of incurring penalties or the difficulties that will be faced in canceling a lease.
If canceling your lease is a part of your agreement, there could also be factors around giving proper notice ahead of time.
Contact Your Landlord
No matter how you swing it, there’s likely to be some negotiating involved. Unless you are a problem tenant, or have butted heads with your landlord so many times that he/she wants you out, they really aren’t going to want to lose your income. They'll have to go through the process of marketing the property and seeking out a new tenant, which means they lose cash flow and potentially spend more during that process.
It's important to realize that your landlord is running a business. It’s likely just as stressful to them as it is for you. Being honest and upfront in an amicable way can go a long way in helping your case. If possible, don’t wait until two days before you need to leave to contact them. Give your landlord a heads-up to the situation. Explain why you need out of the lease. Being a polite and a straight shooter is certainly going to make your landlord more hospitable to working with you.
Have a Backup Plan
If your lease agreement makes it impossible for you to get out without paying hefty penalties or covering the payments for the whole term, one option could be to look for violations committed by your landlord. Is the apartment maintained and operated to the conditions you both agreed upon? Things of this nature might give you more negotiating power. However, if things go this far you’ll likely end up having a far more hostile relationship with the landlord.
There is another idea you might be able to get in motion. Ask your landlord about subletting or finding a roommate. Renting your place out to another tenant for the length of your term is a way to attempt to lower the costs of keeping it. Again, unless it is clearly laid out in your lease, this is something that will have to be negotiated with the landlord.
Another option might be to negotiate a shorter lease with your landlord. Perhaps decreasing the months, or allowing your landlord to actively seek out tenants to take your place could help potentially shorten the lease.
The best way to avoid these types of headaches and situations is preemptive. Know what you’re agreeing to before you sign a legal agreement. If one thinks they might have to leave a lease early, be specific about the literature that covers the terms. That’s the best way to avoid the difficulties and penalties of trying to get out early.