Contracts ensure all parties in an agreement that certain terms and conditions will be carried out, or that legal consequences will result. There are certain circumstances when a contract can be voided or terminated earlier than originally stated or intended in the legal document. No matter how valid your reasons, you cannot just walk away from a contract without the strong possibility of negative legal repercussions. If you need to get out of a contract agreement, there are legally appropriate steps to take. Contracts can range from apartment leases, auto leases, wireless and satellite TV contracts.
Breaking a contract
Contact the other person or "party" named in the contract. Be cordial and polite. Explain the reason you would like to end the contract agreement early. See if that party is willing to sign an agreement to terminate the contract based on your circumstances. For example, you are bound to a rental agreement for a year. A few months into the agreement you are diagnosed with a medical condition that will prevent you from working and paying the required rent. A landlord may be willing to terminate the lease. He'll want to find a new tenant as soon as possible. If the other person in a contract is willing to terminate the agreement early, your attorney can draw up a document that will be attached to the original contract, voiding the terms and validity of the original agreement. All parties in the contract will sign. No court action will be necessary.
Fill out a petition at your local civil courthouse to end a contract. This petition may fall under a variety of different titles in various states and counties, so it is best to ask a local attorney what form you need to request early termination of a contract. Generally, you will state on the form the reason that you are requesting termination. Keep in mind that legal proceedings can often be complicated. Success with such hearings may require hiring an attorney and taking time off work for court dates. If the other parties to a contract are willing to terminate, court intervention is usually not necessary. Once a request for early termination of a contract has been fully heard, the judge will make a determination. He will either deny or grant your request. Once the judge writes his order, his conclusion overrides the original agreement.
Walk away. In very rare instances, some contracts cannot be legally enforced. For example, if one party failed to sign the contract, it is unenforceable. If the contract pertained to bogus information, such as a fake name or involving a business that doesn't actually exist, you could simply not carry through with the terms of the contract based on those extreme scenarios. Extreme caution should be exercised before deciding to go this route. If you are wrong about the invalidity of a contract, you could then be sued for failing to carry through with your end of the deal. Consult with an attorney to be sure that the contract is not legally binding. If the other party has a problem with your action, or lack of action, the ball is in their court to take legal action or not. If they take legal action, a judge will expect them to prove why they think the contract is legally binding. Likewise, you will be expected to show why the contract is not binding. If you are found to be wrong, you may be sued for any damages incurred during your ignorance of the contract. If the judge rules in your favor, the chances are that you will face no legal repercussions.
- Offer the other party some kind of help. If you're trying to break an apartment lease, help your landlord find a replacement tenant. If you're trying to break a mobile phone contract, offer to sign a new, longer term. Or buy new equipment.
- Ask the other party what the remaining term is worth. Offer a compromise amount that lets you out of the contract and gives them some revenue.
- Weigh your legal costs and your loss of pay while in court compared to your cost of buying out the contract or settling on a compromise.
- Remind the other party that neither of you wants to waste time and legal fees when a compromise could settle the issue.
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