EARLY LEASE TERMINATION
How do I get out of my lease?
First of all, just know that once you sign a lease, you are responsible for all of the lease payments until the lease ends.
If you decide not to fulfill your lease, the landlord wants to make sure they do not incur one penny in extra cost or lost income in order to facilitate you breaking the lease.
In order to deter tenants from breaking the lease and minimizing the landlord’s out of pocket costs, most landlords want a security deposit (equivalent in amount to one months rent) and in addition, they will require the first full month’s rent before move in.
Before you move in
If you are trying to get out of a lease after you have signed, but before you have moved in, you may be able to tell the landlord with enough advanced written notice to find a replacement tenant before the lease actually starts. I would suggest in order to increase your chances of getting most of your advanced payments back, you should find a tenant yourself before the move in date.
Because many leases do not address the time period before the lease actually starts, many landlords are also requiring that applicants sign an addendum to the lease that states all submitted money, including the first full month’s rent will be forfeited by the applicant if they cancel the lease for any reason before move in.
After you move in
If you want to break the lease after you move in, most leases clearly stipulate the costs involved with breaking the lease. Generally there will be one cost for the tenant to find a replacement tenant and a different (usually higher) cost if the landlord finds a replacement tenant for you. (see the sample TAR Residential Lease – Section 28B(4) ).
In either case the tenant is still also responsible for the lease payments until the new tenant starts making the payments.
For an example of the lease provisions addressing Early Termination (breaking the lease), see the sample TAR Residential Lease – Section 28.
With all of the costs involved, it is clear to see that you should not sign a lease unless you are sure that you want to live at the property for the duration of the contract. I am aware that there can be unforeseen circumstances that will cause one to terminate a lease early. We will discuss some of the typical reasons why people break their lease and how to try and avoid those scenarios whenever possible in part II of this article.
It is suggested that you get an attorney to assist in reviewing and breaking the lease if you have the means to do so.
Realtors and apartment locators are not allowed to act as your attorney in these matters.
There are also other low cost or free resources to help with this process. See the tenant advocate - http://www.austintenantscouncil.org/ as a starting point.