Can I Break a Lease for a New Job?

You'd think that moving for a new job would be a great excuse for getting out of a lease.

Not to your landlord.

While many tenants are under the impression that a job offer is a legal reason to break a lease, most laws on leases aren't that flexible, according to a story on the issue.

A few states have laws allowing tenants to break leases if they're in the military and have received orders posting them more than a certain number of miles away. And under federal law, any serviceperson entering active duty can cancel a lease.

Elderly tenants can get out of a lease if they're accepted to an assisted-care facility.

But if you're not in the military or elderly, you still have a chance. When a tenant breaks a lease, such as to move to a new job in another city, most states require the landlord to take reasonable steps to rerent the unit and credit the new rent toward the remainder of the lease.

You would only be liable for the months the unit was vacant.

If your landlord doesn't attempt to rerent and tries to collect the balance of the rent in a lawsuit, the judge will determine when the unit would have been rented if the landlord acted properly and advertised for a new tenant.

What works best in your favor is that since you know you have to move early, you can approach the landlord now and explain the situation. He might be kind and let you out of the lease, or at least start advertising your apartment now before you leave - provided you allow prospective tenants to see the place.

Another idea is to find a new tenant yourself, and it will help to recommend someone with good credit and background checks.

If you can't get out of the lease before moving to your new job and have to pay rent on the remaining time, then be sure to check if the landlord is attempting to rerent it and thus save you some money. Have friends in the area check on the property.

Lastly, your new employer may help by giving some extra money to pay at least half of the cost of getting out of your old lease - kind of like moving expenses. You can offer this money to your landlord as a buyout of the lease, which should make it easier and cheaper for him to find a new tenant. Be sure to get a written termination note for your lease if this idea is accepted.

Aaron Crowe has lived in at least five rentals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at
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