An apartment lease is a contractual agreement that requires both you and your landlord to abide by the terms. If you choose to terminate your apartment lease early, you violate the terms of the agreement and, thus, you breached the contract. Breaching the terms of your apartment lease can be costly, especially if your landlord stipulated specific fees and penalties for breaking the lease. If you agreed to the lease, you agreed to pay for these fees, so you are legally responsible. You should read through your apartment lease to see exactly what penalties your landlord specified for early termination and review your state laws to determine if you may be exempt from these penalties due to the circumstances under which you left.
Early Termination Fee
Many landlords stipulate an early termination fee for tenants who choose to break their apartment lease early. The termination fee can range anywhere from $100 to three times the cost of your monthly rent. Review the terms of your lease carefully; if your landlord does require an early termination fee, the amount and the condition under which he will demand it should be outlined in detail.
Tenants who terminate their apartment lease before the lease expires are generally responsible for the remaining rent on the length of agreement. If you have a yearlong lease, for example, and you terminate the lease six months in, you are still responsible for the remaining six months of rent--even if you do not live in the apartment. Some landlords will exempt you from the remaining rent if you can find a new tenant to take over the remainder of your lease, while others may require you to continue paying even if they can find a new tenant. If your landlord required you to put down the last month’s rent prior to moving in, you may be able to shave off a month on your remaining rent by applying that money towards the remainder of your lease.
Surrender of Security Deposit
In addition to other penalties, your landlord may keep your security deposit if you ever vacate the property prior to the end of the lease. You gave this deposit your landlord prior to moving in. Even if you left the apartment clean and damage-free, your lease may stipulate that you forfeit this money. If you did cause damage, you may be responsible for the costs of repairing those damages above and beyond your security deposit, as well.
Your landlord may file a claim against you if you skip out on your apartment lease before the lease is up. If you fail to pay the remaining balance on your rent and/or any additional penalties outlined within your lease, he can take you to court to seek a judgment against you for the full amount. Some states will also award your landlord additional penalties and fees, including court costs and attorney fees, if he wins his case.
If you terminate your apartment lease early for a lawful reason, you may emerge from the situation without penalty. If the apartment was uninhabitable due to mold or other health problems, was in significant disrepair and your landlord refused to fix the problems, or your landlord violated the terms of your lease agreement, the law may exempt you from liability for skipping out. However, your state may require you to give notification before you can lawfully terminate your lease without penalty. Review your residential state’s landlord/tenancy laws to learn more about your state’s specific requirements.