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How to Break a Lease

Breaking a lease is almost always considered a legal breach of contract, even if a tenant has a good excuse. Here are some exceptions to the rule.


  • Step 1: Notify landlord Notify the landlord of your intent to leave the property before your lease is up. Try to get written permission to break the lease. Read the document's wording carefully.
  • Step 2: Help landlord find new tenants Offer to help the landlord find new tenants. Provide the names and contact information of people who may be interested.
  • TIP: Many states require landlords to mitigate damages by making reasonable attempts to re-rent an apartment or house once a tenant gives notice of breach.
  • Step 3: Visit HUD web site If your landlord won’t give you permission to break the lease, visit the U.S. Housing and Urban Development web site to learn what your legal options are. Landlord-tenant laws vary from state to state.
  • TIP: Legal exceptions that favor the tenant include when a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs or isn't providing basic utilities.
  • Step 4: Consider an attorney Consider hiring an attorney especially if the landlord won’t release you. Affordable and even free attorneys specializing in landlord-tenant laws are available through state agencies and nonprofit organizations.
  • FACT: Leases were mainly used for agricultural purposes until the early 19th century, when they began to be used for landholding.

You Will Need

  • Notification of intent
  • Permission to break the lease
  • An attorney (optional)

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