Breaking Your Lease

scott-webb-386701-copy-202x300Most residential leases are for a period of one year. Typically, the lease starts on the first of a month, and you are entitled to live in the unit at that price for the next 12 months. However, a lot can happen during that year. You may get a new job in another state, suffer a medical emergency, become pregnant, or for any number of reasons need to move. If you cannot stay in your apartment until the end of your lease, then you will have to move out early. This is known as breaking your lease and amounts to a breach of contract. You can do it, but there will be consequences.

When it comes to breaking a lease, you should understand your rights to ensure your landlord does not try and take advantage of the situation. If you believe your landlord is treating you unfairly or unlawfully during this situation, contact a San Francisco tenants’ rights attorney right away.

Breaking a Lease

To break a lease, you should contact your landlord. The consequences of breaking your lease will be much harsher if you simply move out one day and stop paying your rent. Instead, it is best to give as much notice as possible in writing. For instance, you may email your landlord at the beginning of the month stating you will be out by the last day of that month.

Your Security Deposit

What breaking your lease will cost you often depends on your lease. The contract may state that you forfeit your security deposit if you break the lease. This can be tough to swallow. However, if your lease does not have this type of provision, then your landlord must follow state and local law regarding how to manage and return your security deposit once you move out.

Your Responsibility for Rent

Breaking the lease could also cost you additional months of rent. Just because you have decided to move out of the unit does not mean you are no longer liable for paying rent. You do not get to unilaterally decide that the contract is over and you will not pay the rent the landlord is owed under the contract. The landlord has to agree to let you off the hook.

There is a caveat to your responsibility to continue to pay rent when you break a lease. Under the law, landlords are required to make a reasonable effort to mitigate damages. This means they must take steps to rent the apartment. The landlord cannot let it sit empty, making no effort to get a new tenant, and then force you to keep paying rent. Some landlords will try and pass off responsibility to you. They may say that since you are leaving early, it is your job to find a new tenant for the unit. This is not true.

If your landlord tries to get a new tenant into the unit and has trouble doing so, you could be responsible for additional months of rent. However, by giving your landlord 30 days’ notice or more that you are moving out, you give them a significant chance of having a new tenant ready to move in the day after you leave.

Other Potential Damages

There is the potential for the landlord to suffer other damages for which you could be held responsible. If the landlord is unable to re-let the apartment at the same price, you may be responsible for the difference between what you paid and the lesser amount the new tenant pays. You may also be responsible for the cost of advertising and preparing the apartment for the new tenant. However, if a landlord is claiming you are responsible for thousands of dollars in damages, contact a lawyer right away.

Contact San Francisco Tenants’ Rights Lawyer Today

If you must break your lease, be clear on your rights and responsibilities first. Then, do so in writing and give as much notice as you can. It is important to cooperate with your landlord during this process, yet do not let yourself be taken advantage of. It is not your responsibility to find a new tenant, and your landlord is required to mitigate their damages. If you believe your landlord is not acting lawfully during this issue, contact us at Brod Law Firm at (800) 427-7020 to schedule a free consultation.

(image courtesy of Scott Webb)