When North Carolina renter (and attorney) Melissa Brumback needed to move out of her residence early, she didn’t run into too much of a problem.
“I had to get out of a lease because my apartment was shot into by someone,” Brumback tells MainStreet. “Needless, to say the landlord let us out.”
Now, we’re not saying that the key to getting out of a lease is to be a victim of a drive-by shooting, but it’s important to know that while the specifics vary from state to state, getting out of a lease isn’t always so simple. Landlords, generally speaking, do have an obligation to keep your quarters inhabitable, but proving this type of contract breach (minus the aforementioned bullet holes) can be tricky … and time consuming.
“Any breach of the lease can allow you to break the lease and move elsewhere,” T. Russ Ferguson, an attorney in Washington, D.C., explains, before adding “you must give the landlord notice of the breach first, however, and the landlord can cure the breach” before you can move out debt-free.
If your landlord allows problems to persist, you may be able to terminate the contract at little-to-no personal expense. Additionally, depending on the language of your lease, you can work certain situations to your advantage.
“If your lease says you are entitled to a pool and the pool is broken for a month, you can sever your lease and move elsewhere,” Ferguson says. You also need to be willing to, as Brumbeck puts it, “fight the livability fight in court.” However, those looking to abandon their living arrangements due to personal reasons (such as a new job that requires relocation or a bad roommate who is driving them insane) may not be able to avoid paying out. The good news is, tenants choosing early termination don’t usually get stuck paying their contract in its entirety. This is because, by law, all landlords have to make a reasonable effort to find someone to take over a broken lease.