There are a number of options for tenants stuck in a bad lease. Break your lease the legal way with this guide.

When you move into an apartment, you may find that it’s not everything you wanted. Even if you have a long-term lease, that doesn’t mean that you are stuck in the property. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. With a little careful planning there is no reason that you have to stay in your apartment any longer than you want to.

Lease Breaking 101

To get out of your lease you need a legal reason to break the lease. Note that the legal reason does not have to be the real reason that you want to get out of the property. However, you do need a legal reason. If your housing situation is less than ideal, you should have little trouble finding a legal reason to break the lease.

However, you may not even need to find a legal reason. Many landlords will not want you living in their property if you don’t want to be there. Don’t rule out the possibility that your landlord will let you out of your lease if you speak with them frankly.

Finding a Replacement Tenant

The easiest way to get out of your lease is to find a new tenant for the landlord. You can do this by posting notices in the local newspaper and screening tenants. You should speak to your landlord before you do this to make sure that this solution is acceptable to the property owner. Nothing would be more embarrassing or problematic than going through the trouble of finding a new tenant only to find out that the landlord is not agreeable to such an arrangement.

Legal Reasons to Vacate

Legal reasons for breaking a lease vary from one state to another. However, many states have the following reasons as legal reasons for breaking a lease:

  • Infestation by insects, vermin or any other kinds of pests
  • Repairs and maintenance requests that go unfulfilled
  • Illegal activity in or around the premises
  • Structural problems with the building.
  • Noisy neighbors in the building that the landlord does not deal with.
  • The unit is illegal to begin with, such as a garage unit or other units that do not conform to the local building or rental codes.

Procedure for Vacating

The exact procedures for using a legal reason will vary from one place to another. You should check with state and local laws for the precise manner in which you may break a lease. Still, there are some commonalities no matter where you live.

  1. Serve the landlord with notice of the problem. Send this via registered mail and request a return receipt.
  2. Allow the landlord a certain period of time to address the problem. This time period is based on local and state law, as well as the nature of the problem. The waiting period for cracks in the walls might not be the same as the waiting period for a cockroach infestation.
  3. Your landlord must make a real attempt to fix the problem. Weak attempts to not qualify. This means that if your landlord sends a maintenance man to fix a complex plumbing problem that this does not generally count as trying to address your concerns.
  4. Send the landlord a letter informing them that they have failed to address your concerns in a timely manner and that you will be vacating the premises in a defined period of time. Mention any relevant law in the letter and as always get a receipt.

Getting Out of a Lease

You should always start out with the easiest way possible, progressing to more difficult solutions as you fail to resolve the problem. Chances are that you will resolve your problem sooner rather than later. In a particularly difficult case, get a lawyer who works on contingency. This means that the lawyer only gets paid if you win your case. You may even find that the judge will order your former landlord to pay all your legal fees.