What Happens When You Break an Apartment Lease

Evelyn Long

Aug 23, 2022


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If you rent an apartment, you may want or need to break your lease early. You might be dealing with roommate or landlord issues or need to move away for work. Regardless, there are some things you want to keep in mind when you break an apartment lease. 

The important thing is to be aware but not anxious about the potential consequences, especially when you don’t have a choice. 

You can get out of an unsavory situation with proper knowledge and communication. If you just want to pack up and leave because you’re sick of the apartment, you’re more likely to face these consequences. 

Potential Consequences 

If you know you’re breaking your lease, you need to notify your landlord as soon as possible to develop an arrangement that benefits both of you. Your landlord may ask you to sublease your apartment or help find a new tenant. 

A lease is a binding legal document, so you may face the consequences for breaking the contract.


When you sign a lease, you agree to pay a set amount over your rental term and your landlord will likely want that amount even if you leave early. Remember that your landlord is running a business and you going early would mean they’re losing money. 

Some landlords will let you go with the equivalent of one or two months’ rent instead, while others may charge you extra for your early departure. 

A Lawsuit

You may face legal action if you’re determined to get out of your lease and don’t have a legal exception. 

Some laws protect transferring military members, domestic violence victims, illegal lease tenants and tenants whose landlords breached the lease. However, your landlord could sue you for ending your lease early without legal protection in your state. 

Be sure to review the laws in your area and the terms of your lease and speak with a lawyer if you have any concerns about legal charges. 

Worse Credit Score

By exiting your lease early, you risk damaging your credit score. If you do not pay associated fees, your landlord may send that debt to a collections agency or small claims court, which will get back to the three major credit bureaus that determine your score. 

A poor credit score could make renting a new place or taking out a loan harder. Make sure to communicate with your landlord and do your research before breaking your lease to try and avoid this. 

Rent Troubles

You risk having trouble finding a new place by breaking your lease since a previously broken lease is a red flag to potential landlords. This, accompanied by a contentious history with landlords, could make other landlords not trust you. 

Some landlords like to call your previous landlords for references; if they don’t have nice things to say, you’re likely not getting that apartment. That’s why it’s vital to be proactive with your current landlord when you need to break your lease. 

When you are apartment hunting, be honest with any questions your potential new landlord has about your previous rental experience. 

Breaking Your Lease

If you have to break your lease, don’t panic. There’s a possibility of consequences and you can expect to pay a fee. However, if you are transparent about your situation and know the lease and the law, you’ve done everything possible to make the process positive. 

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