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How to terminate a rental contract

There are many reasons why someone may need to terminate a rental contract early. A new job in another state or a commitment to the military are just a couple.

Since a lease is a legally binding contract, simply moving out early can leave you vulnerable to legal problems. Review your lease to see what your options are.

Check your lease for early termination provisions. Some contacts may allow early termination if the renter pays the equivalent of a month's rent.

Talk to the property owner or manager. If your lease does not have a provision for early termination, your manager may be sympathetic and make some type of arrangement with you.

Make a written request for needed repairs. If your landlord or manager has not made repairs after numerous requests you can use this as your reason to vacate. You must have copies of the requests sent to the manager and give adequate time for the repairs to be made. The property manager must abide by the terms in the lease the same way you do. Her responsibility is to keep everything in working order.

Document any unsafe or unsanitary conditions. Take pictures and get witness statements of the unsafe conditions in your dwelling. Notify the property manger of the problem and if he makes no attempt to fix the problem, call the housing authority or building inspector. Unsafe or uninhabitable living conditions are a violation of your contract.

Consult an attorney specialising in real estate law. Some states have provisions for breaking a contract based on certain circumstances. A spouse passing away or the renter becoming permanently disabled and needing to be moved to a long-term care facility are just two clauses that are included under New Jersey law. Find out if your state has any provisions for circumstances.

Find a replacement renter. This will have to be approved by the manager, but in some cases if you find someone to take over the lease you will not have to pay a penalty. The new renter may have to qualify by income and credit check to be considered.

Pay the remainder of your contract. If the landlord will not allow one of the previous steps you are better off to just pay the remaining balance of your contract and close it out. If you cannot pay it all at once, just continue to pay the monthly rent until the contract expires. This is an expensive option but may be the only recourse.


  • It is always best to try to work things out with your manager. No matter where you move next, you will need a good rental reference. If you need to terminate your contract due to joining the armed services, the military has a way to help you get out of your contract. This provision is called The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act. To qualify you must have signed your lease prior to being called for duty and you must have lived in the property yourself ( no sublet). You must give the manager 30 days' written notice of intent to vacate. Under this act, you can legally terminate your contract with no penalty.


  • If you break your lease by leaving and not paying your rent, the property owner can file for an eviction and sue you for the remainder of the contract amount. This will go on your credit report and will make it harder for you to rent somewhere else in the future. Evictions stay on your credit report for a long time.

Things Needed

  • Rental Contract