Read Your Lease
Read your lease! This cannot be emphasized enough. Read it before you sign it. Read it during the term of your lease. Read it before your contract terminates. No matter how justified you may feel or what the law says, if there is a term in the contract that you signed that works against your best interests, there is little you can do to break it. Know the score before you begin negotiating with your landlord. Knowing the contract in and out will help you identify weaknesses in his case as well as help you tackle potential snags head-on.
Read Up on Your State's Laws
No matter what conventional wisdom dictates, lease laws and tenant rights vary widely state-by-state. Before you begin considering legal action, make sure that the law is actually on your side. Speak with a lawyer in your area or visit the library to look up the rental codes for your specific jurisdiction. Never assume something is the law unless you have a reliable source.
Reach an Agreement with Your Landlord
If you are on good terms with your landlord, they will likely be willing to reach an agreement with you rather than start a legal battle. Simply approach them with your situation and ask if there is any kind of compromise you can reach. In many cases, simply giving them advance notice that you are moving out will suffice, as it will give them time to find another renter. You may need to forfeit your security deposit or pay rent for another month if you give very short notice, but at least you will not be in breach of contract.
Another way to break a contract amicably is to sublease the apartment. Be sure to consult your contract, research local tenant regulations, or speak with your landlord regarding whether or not this is permissible. When you sublet an apartment, you are still bound by the lease agreement between you and your landlord. As such, you are ultimately responsible for the payment of the rent and any damages done to the property - so make sure you find a reliable tenant and draft an airtight contract. For a sample of a sublease agreement, see the Resources section below.
You may need to accept slightly less than the full amount of the rent you are paying, but having someone subsidize a portion of the rent is preferable to eating the entire cost for an empty apartment.
Prove Breach of Contract on the Landlord's Part
Read your contract carefully and search for any amenities or services guaranteed by the landlord that he or she has not fulfilled. Look for stipulations such as promises of a secured gate, routine maintenance, working laundry facilities, paid utilities or other amenities that are often used as selling points but sometimes never quite come to fruition. Write a formal complaint and if your pleas go unbidden, contact a lawyer and break your contract.
Receive Medical or Military Approval to Break the Lease
In some cases, you can receive a doctor's note or a military release from contract in order to break your lease. If your health demands that you relocate near a medical facility or you are called to serve and are forced to move, you may be eligible to break your rental agreement. Again, be sure to acquire the proper documentation and comply with state laws before attempting to do so.