What is the best solution to get out of a lease if I can no longer afford rent? 36 Answers as of August 13, 2012

My hours were cut severely at work and I'm trying to find a new job but in the meantime I can't afford my rent and I have 10 months left on the lease.

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Law Office of Charles M. Vacca Jr. | Charles Martin Vacca Jr.
That may be difficult, as landlord may obtain judgment for remainder of lease (even if you are evicted for non-payment of rent). For further assistance, please contact me.
Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
Replied: 8/13/2012
Law Offices of Frances Headley | Frances Headley
The best solution is to work out a termination agreement with the owner.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/13/2012
Austin Hirschhorn, P.C.
Austin Hirschhorn, P.C. | Austin Hirschhorn
Contact the landlord and see if you can work out something to vacate the premises and stop the rent for the remaining term of the lease. If this does not work you can see if the landlord will accept partial payments that you can afford until the lease expires with an agreement that you will pay the unpaid portion of the rent when you find a new job. If none of this works you have to look at other alternatives to deal with debt you can't afford to pay.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/7/2012
Law Office of Jared Altman
Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
Ask the landlord to let you out.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 8/9/2012
Hunter Law Offices, PLLC
Hunter Law Offices, PLLC | S. Christopher Hunter
It depends on the type of lease that you have. If you have a month to month lease then you can get our with 30 days notice. If you have a year lease then you cannot get out of it. To determine this you need to look at the lease or have an attorney look at it. If the lease is indeed a set lease for a period of time such as year, you should look at the lease and see if it says anything about early termination. Sometimes there is a provision that you can terminate early if you pay a penalty. However, if there is no such language then you are stuck. However, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. You can tell your landlord that you are moving out by a set date and return the property to them. Once your notice is given, usually 30 days, again depending upon the contract, the landlord has a duty to mitigate their damages. This just means that they have a duty to try and find someone else to rent the property as soon as possible. If they can find someone to take over your rent you will not have to pay for any of the months that the new renter is there. However, if the landlord is unable to find a suitable renter then you will be on the hook for the unpaid months of rent. Another option is for you to sublet the apartment (rent it out to someone else). However, there are problems with this such as the landlord often has to approve them. Also if your sub leaser doesn't pay you will be on the hook for the rent.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/9/2012
    Gary L. Platt, Attorney at Law | Gary Platt
    Probably the best thing you can do at this point is find another tenant to take your place. IF the landlord cannot find anyone to rent the place, you are responsible for the remaining term of the lease, but if you find a replacement tenant who can pay at least as much as you were paying (more would be better), your landlord may agree to allow a new tenant to take your place.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/9/2012
    Law Office of William L Spern | William Spern
    Talk to the landlord. They may let you out early with a couple months of rent as an acceleration of the remaining rents. It would be cheaper than having to hire a lawyer & get an eviction order.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/9/2012
    Merrick Law Office | N. Munro Merrick
    I have two suggestions: 1) Talk to your landlord. If your drop in earnings is permanent, try to negotiate a rent you can afford. 2) At the same time, search for a replacement tenant. Which means, advertise where it's free to advertise, and also in the paper. You are liable for the rent to the end of the term, plus the landlord's expenses in locating a new tenant, less whatever rent the landlord collects for the period until your lease was supposed to expire. If you expect your income to pick up soon, talk to your landlord about a temporary reduction in the rent. He may be willing to do that if the rent shortage is added on later. Most important talk to your landlord. I suspect that he does not want an empty unit, and would rather not go chasing someone through the court system.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/9/2012
    Universal Law Group, Inc. | Francis John Cowhig
    If your landlord will not allow you out of the lease, you probably have only 2 other options. Bring in a roommate to help with the rent or, if permitted, sub-let your place to someone else. You will still be responsible the rent, so make sure that the person you sublet to is financially secure.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/9/2012
    Fidelity National Title Insurance Company
    Fidelity National Title Insurance Company | Andrew Capelli
    Unless your rental agreement has a clause excusing you for loss of employment, you are still "on the hook." I would recommend contacting your landlord as soon as possible to discuss the situation. You should probably plan on moving out in order to allow the landlord to re-rent the premises and mitigate damages.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/9/2012
    Law Office of Bijal Jani | Bijal Jani
    The best first step is to contact your landlord and set up a meeting in which you discuss the issues that you have in payment. Try to work things out, and put it in writing.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/9/2012
    Gorman Law Group, P.C. | Troy T. Gorman
    Being unable to afford rent is generally not a reason that would allow you to break a lease contract. From the situation you described, you may be better off speaking with your landlord about your situation. If you let them know now, they could try to lease the apartment to someone else and may let you out of the lease if they find another tenant. You might also ask if they will let you "sub-lease" to another person to have them take over the apartment, or get a room-mate to help share the expense. Depending on the situation, they may also prefer to let you out of the lease rather than spending time and money going to court to have you evicted given the short time left on the lease. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/9/2012
    Law Offices of Christopher R. Smitherman, LLC | Christopher R. Smitherman
    You can negotiate for a release out of the lease or see if there is a legitimate candidate for sublease and/or assignment of lease. in either of the instance, you will prefer to get released from the landlord. Of course, each of those require cooperation and approval by the landlord.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Salladay Law Office | Lance Salladay
    The best thing you can do is try and discuss and negotiate with the landlord. Give them all of your circumstances and ask to be let out of the lease. Impossibility of performance is a defense to a breach of contract claim, but I would not want to count on that alone.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Halperin Law Offices | Ivan Halperin
    The best approach is to be truthful with your landlord and ask to have the lease cancelled. Offer to move out promptly and forfeit your deposit. If you have a really good relationship with your landlord you might be able to resolve the matter quickly. Most likely your landlord will refuse but will put the apartment back up for lease and cancel your lease when it has an acceptable new tenant. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    MatthewR. Schutz, Esq | Matthew R. Schutz
    If the lease is valid, you are legally stuck. It may be worthwhile to speak with the LL and see if you can negotiate a way out.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Leonard A. Kaanta, P.C. | Leonard A. Kaanta
    You have a contract. If you don't pay your rent the landlord can evict you.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Andrew D. Campbell, Attorney at Law | Andrew D. Campbell
    Whether you can get out of your lease will depend on the specific language of your lease agreement. For instance, some residential leases contain provisions for termination when the tenant incurs a job transfer or loss of employment. I have been successful in terminating leases on these grounds in the past. There are also statutory provisions which allow for termination of the lease in situations where the tenant qualifies for subsidized senior citizen rental housing, or has been found incapable of living on his or her own by a physician. Short of some early termination provision like that, you are likely on the hook for rent through the end of your lease term. Your best bet in this case is to contact your landlord and try to work something out with him for a set amount in lieu of the full amount of rent through the end of your lease term. You will want to execute a "Surrender of Lease" which expressly details the terms on which you are surrendering the premises to the landlord. That said, there are certain common law rules governing lease termination which can mitigate or reduce the amount of rent you are liable for. If you simply abandon the property and turn possession over to the landlord, you will be liable for rent up through the date of your abandonment and you may be liable for the full amount of your rental payments through the end of your lease term subject to the following limitations: 1. Under Michigan law, a landlord may not accelerate the amount due on the lease (recover all rental payments through the end of the lease term) absent a written notice in the lease itself which informs the tenant that it may not be liable for the full amount of rent because of the landlord's obligation to mitigate its damages (mitigation is discussed more below). Check your lease for this language before paying anything to your landlord. 2. The amount a landlord may recover from you for failing to fulfill your rental obligations through the end of the lease term is limited to what is called the "contract/market differential" amount. This means the difference between the agreed rent in your lease and the market value of the rent, or in other words, the amount of rent the landlord could obtain for the premises through reasonable diligence. 3. Tied in with the market value of the rent, is your landlord's duty to mitigate its damages. If you surrender the premises, the landlord cannot simply make no effort to secure a new tenant and attempt to collect all of the accelerated rent from you. He or she has an obligation to find a replacement tenant and any recoverable damages should be offset by the amount that could have reasonably been mitigated.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Dennis P. Mikko Attorney at Law | Dennis P. Mikko
    The best course of action is to speak with the landlord and advise him/her of your current situation. Finding someone to either take over the lease or to rent the property once you vacate could work to mitigate your damages.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Slotnick & Schwartz
    Slotnick & Schwartz | Leonard T. Schwartz
    You should talk to the landlord and see if he will agree to terminate the lease now. Otherwise, you could stop paying your rent and wait until the Landlord takes you to Court and gets a Judgment for Possession. Your lease terminates as of that date. You will then have about a week to move before you are locked out. You will still owe rent for the time you are in the apartment.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    You have a contract. Try to negotiate something with your landlord to leave early. If he does not agree, then you breach the contract and you'll eventually be evicted.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Lisa L. Hogreve, LC | Lisa L. Hogreve
    Speak to the landlord about letting you out of the lease early. The landlord might want you to pay for rent until he finds a new tenant, and the costs of re-letting, but that is better than 10 months of rent obligation. Alternatively, if your lease allows it, find a roommate to share expenses or sublet the apartment. However, in both these situations, you are ultimately responsible for payment of the rent, so if the sub-tenant moves in and fails to pay you, you still have to pay the landlord.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
    Be frank with your landlord, ask them to allow you out on finding a new tenant and to immediately start their search. This is not a situation you can win, and leaving without agreement could leave you responsible for the remaining lease term as well as having to pay for another place to live.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Sultan Law Office | Gregory Sultan
    Beg for mercy from the landlord.- Offer to help find someone to take you place or just start looking for a replacement tenant. Any deal you make with the landlord get in writing. The landlord telling you to just move and he will let you go does not cut it.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    The Law Offices of Tres A. Porter | Tres A. Porter
    It really depends upon your landlord. It is usually helpful if you are able to find a new tenant and the two of you approach the landlord about either modifying the lease or entering a new lease with the new tenant and cancelling yours. Or, if you approach the landlord with the idea that if you are allowed to cancel the lease you will leave the property in a good condition by a date certain with the rent paid to that date, but if you are not allowed to do so you will remain in as long as possible under state law and likely leave owing rent after an unlawful detainer action has to be filed and a Judgment entered against along with a writ of possession that has to be enforced by local law enforcement. This is a costly process in terms of both time and money and therefore most landlords try to avoid if possible.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Casler Law Offices PLLC
    Casler Law Offices PLLC | Carlton C. Casler
    The "best solution" is for you to talk with the landlord about your situation and try to negotiate an early termination of the lease. If the landlord will not agree, then provide a written notice to the landlord that gives a specific date that you will be out of the unit. Make sure you are out on or before that date and hand-deliver the keys to the landlord (get a receipt for the keys). Also ask (either in the notice of termination or in a separate notice) to be notified of the date/time of the move-out inspection. Make sure you leave the property clean and undamaged. Go to the move-out inspection and hand-deliver a written request for return of your refundable deposits and put an address where the check should be mailed, which may (but is not required to) be your forwarding address. Check to see if the landlord markets the property for rent (i.e., a sign on the property or in a window, etc.). Now for the legal part: you are financially responsible for rent and other amounts due under the rental agreement until the end of the lease term or until the landlord re-rents the property AND all expenses the landlord incurs to re-rent the property. If you leave the property in need of cleaning or repairs, then that will delay the landlord's ability to re-rent the property. Check periodically with the landlord to see if the property has been re-rented. The landlord has a duty to mitigate damages by making reasonable efforts to re-rent the property. If the landlord does not mitigate the damages and you end up going to court, then the amount you owe may be reduced.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Law Office of Gregory Crain | Gregory Crain
    I would have to see the lease. Talk to your landlord.
    Answer Applies to: Arkansas
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    James T. Weiner & Associates, P.C.
    James T. Weiner & Associates, P.C. | James T. Weiner
    Best solution is to talk to the landlord.. Tell them that you cannot afford the lease and you will move out willingly if they will let you out of the lease. That way when you do not pay they do not have to incur large legal bills to evict you and loose $$ that way.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    NOLAN LAW LLC | Joshua J. Nolan
    If permitted under the terms of your lease, you can limit your damages by sub-letting the property to another tenant. Otherwise, in the absence of some breach of the lease by the landlord, you are liable for the rent owed, at least until the landlord leases the property to another tenant.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Chmielik Law Firm, LLC
    Chmielik Law Firm, LLC | Martin Chmielik
    Your first step would be to try and negotiate with your landlord to see if he will agree to voluntarily agree to terminate the lease. He will likely not do so, but it's worth a shot explaining your circumstances to see if he has any empathy for your situation. However, the landlord is under no obligation to voluntarily let you out of your lease, and will likely not do so. You can also try to find another renter to take over your lease (called either an "assignment" or "sub-let"), and see if your landlord is agreeable to this (often leases state that a tenant can't assign/sub-let their lease without the landlord's permission). But if you truly have no other option, it's time to move your stuff out and "abandon" your tenancy. Move everything out, clean up, and return the keys to your landlord with a notice stating that you are abandoning your tenancy. At this point, if you have not paid rent, you will still be in violation of your lease, but your landlord will then be left with 2 options, neither of which is too fun. (#1) - He can accept your abandonment (thus terminating the lease), "re-enter" the premises and attempt to re-lease it to someone else. You will still likely lose your security deposit at this point, and may be sued for the rent he lost from you from the time you left until he can find another tenant. The landlord's other option (#2) is to not "re-enter" the premises or accept your abandonment, and just sit back, wait the 10 months, and then try to sue you for the entire rent you missed. This usually does not work with residential tenants, as the courts here like to see landlords try and make reasonable efforts to rent the premises after a breach and mitigate (i.e. minimize) their damages.
    Answer Applies to: Missouri
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Law Offices of David M. Blain
    Law Offices of David M. Blain | David Blain
    Talk to your landlord and explain the situation, hopefully he/she will have compassion and work with you. But remember, the obligation that you have is to pay rent at the amount stated in the lease. Losing your job or having your pay cut is not a legal defense to stop paying the exact amount owed. Sad, but true. I would talk to your landlord and request that he look for a replacement tenant to move in. That way, you will only be responsible for the rent for the period of time in which you are/were unable to pay and before the new tenant moves in. Once the new tenant moves in, you no longer have to pay the rent even if the lease says you do. Just make sure that any new agreement you have with the landlord is in writing. If the landlord refuses to work with you, and you are truly unable to pay your rent, you might want to consider breaking your lease sooner rather than later. Technically, you are legally responsible for the entire amount of rent owed under the lease. However, if you break the lease the landlord has the affirmative duty to mitigate his damages. This means the landlord has to make reasonable efforts and take appropriate steps to rent the apartment out after you breach the lease; he's not allowed to wait the entire 10 months and then sue you for rent for that time. What's reasonable depends upon the circumstances, but in my opinion it shouldn't take more than 3 months to rent the apartment. Good luck, I hope this helps.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    The Law Offices of Robert W. Bellamy
    The Law Offices of Robert W. Bellamy | Robert W. Bellamy
    Depends on what is in the lease agreement.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Victor Varga | Victor Varga
    Talk it over with the landlord and see if you can either sublease, or try to find a replacement tenant.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Douglas M. Philpott, P.C. | Peter J. Philpott
    Contact the landlord and attempt to settle the remainder of the lease for the least you can afford, the landlord has a duty to mitigate his damages by leasing to another tenant.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/8/2012
    Alan Smith | Alan Smith
    You are going to have a problem. You will probably be liable for the entire lease. I would look into subleasing the property.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/8/2012
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