Breaking a Lease in the Best Way Possible

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Tamara Novak has the kind of job that often gives her very little warning before she has to relocate -- and breaking a lease pretty much comes with the territory. "This does not bode well for good tenant-landlord relationships," she says. "I've had to break a lot of leases over the years, but finding month-to-month deals is practically impossible, especially on short notice."

Sometimes breaking your lease is inevitable. The reasons run the gamut from sickness to job-relocation. You can hope that human kindness will keep your landlord from keeping your security deposit-or worse-especially if you are the victim of circumstance.

But renting is a business and your landlord is also a victim. However, if you do find you have to break your lease, here's how to do it and what you can expect if you do:
1. Give as Much Warning as Possible

"If the tenant is a nice person, or offers a good excuse for breaking the lease," says tenant-landlord attorney, Jason Furhman, "the landlord can just choose to let it go."

With that in mind, let your landlord know about any reason you might have to break your lease as early as possible. For example, mention that there have been murmurs about you landing a promotion in a new city as soon as you hear them. Or tell him or her about the scary medical diagnosis that might mean you have to move to be closer to a loved one.

Chances are, your landlord will respect you for your honesty and will appreciate that he or she might have to prepare for you to vacate earlier than your lease indicates.

2. Replace Yourself

"A lease is a contract," adds Furhman. "The tenant is breaching the contract by breaking the lease."

Breaking a lease can have a dire effect on your landlord, but by doing everything you can to help to ease the transition, you might be able to get out of your lease at little-to-no cost to anyone.

"The best thing I can do if I have to move with only one month's notice," says Novak, "is get someone to sublet until the end of the lease."

Using social networking, you might be able to get someone trustworthy to take your place. This way, when you tell your landlord you are moving, you can add that you already have a few candidates in mind to take over your lease and even offer to let him or her make the final decision.

3. Be Understanding

"A landlord can be as nice or as nasty as they want to be," says Furhman. "The landlord can choose to hold the tenant responsible for the remainder of the lease. Which is a lot more than just keeping the security deposit!"

The truth is the reaction of your landlord is going to depend in part on your rental market and whether or not you can be easily replaced-or if you can be replaced for a lot more money.

"I haven't really heard of landlord's doing things like slashing tires or breaking kneecaps," jokes Furhman.

But the more you can do to help your landlord see that you will do your part to transition out smoothly, the better your chances are of garnering a favorable reaction from your landlord.

Furhman offers a sunny outlook: "A zen-like landlord could choose to do nothing about it, accepting it as the natural course of events, and move on serenely to the next thing."


Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estateguides that can help:
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