Should I Break My Apartment Lease?

by AJ Pettersen · 9 comments

Signing a lease can be stressful, since many people don’t know how long they will be staying in one place. This makes agreeing to a set time frame difficult. My fiancé signed a 12 month lease earlier this year, but is now second guessing that decision because of a number of reasons that were unknown prior to signing the lease. Most apartments attempt to get each tenant to sign as long of a lease as possible by offering promotional deals, and my fiancé got a cheaper security deposit and a waived administrative fee for adding 2 months onto the length she initially wanted. Now she is considering breaking the lease and moving on to something different. The question she and I are asking ourselves is when does this become a sound decision financially?

Current Issues

There are a few issues that have been ongoing with the apartment. One of the managers has been less than friendly. This isn’t grounds for moving, but it certainly isn’t enjoyable and doesn’t make the place feel very comfortable. Another problem has to do with a hostile neighbor that lives directly below her.

I have been living with my fiancé about half the time during my time off from baseball season, and neither of us knew anyone before arriving in town. With baseball season approaching fast and a hostile neighbor below, my fiancé has begun to question the safety of her living situation. He has yelled obscenities and apparently has been watching us through his window when we walk by. He recently called the cops to complain about noise while I was sitting in the living room by myself. This makes breaking the lease a definite possibility going forward, but management talked to him and says they settled the issue. It doesn’t mean we are totally comfortable with the situation yet. What is the price tag on safety?

Future Plans

The lease will be up when my fiancé and I get married next fall. This means we will move into a new place together and probably need to get another 12 month lease. What would make more sense is to have the lease end in around this time next year because my fiancé would rather have options a year from now than in the middle of the fall. This puts breaking the lease into a serious conversation and it will certainly have an effect on our decision.

Financial Impact

The apartment is a steal. The rent is only $600 a month and it is a nice place overall, so moving into a new apartment for 6 months before we moved in together would undoubtedly cost more. Breaking the lease at her current location requires a 30 day notice, 2 month’s rent and a $300 re-letting fee as well. All in all, we would have to pay $1500 to move out and then pay a higher rate at a new place. Is this worth it?

When Moving is Worth It

Right now, we have decided the penalty for breaking the lease is too high. We feel as though management has a handle on the situation, but it will probably be time to move on if anything new arises. A few situations that would be worth breaking a lease are:

  • Fearing for your safety
  • A new job that easily covers the penalty for breaking the agreement
  • Your rental is unfit for living
  • Changes in circumstances (getting married, family problems, etc.)

There are obviously more situations where breaking a lease may be the best choice, as being comfortable in your place of dwelling is extremely important to your well being. Finances are important, but don’t always let a high price tag prevent you from moving to somewhere you would be happier.

Are you considering breaking your lease? What is helping/hurting the decision?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Icarus February 15, 2012 at 7:15 am

So she signed a 12 month lease plus 2 more months to save admin fees and a lower security deposit or was it 10 months, plus 2 more? Don’t know why I’m asking since the authors don’t seem to respond on this blog.

It sounds like her lease will run two extra months which would put you off the standard rental cycle of May/Oct. You could simply find an apartment you like, you move in and live between two apartments for a month. That gives you time to slowly move, paint if you want, etc. You might even be able to avoid renting a truck and hiring movers.

When there is one month to go on her place, leave the keys and walk away. Yeah they keep your security deposit, which I’m guessing is about a month’s rent anyway so who cares. You pay an extra $600 instead of $1500 to legitimately break the lease. Not a bad amount if that allows you to move your stuff over a months’ time…maybe even offset by saving on hiring movers and a moving truck.

Now if the safety issue is a legitimate concern, if you feel there is a good chance that it could escalate to violence, you need to get out of there right away.

Reply

AJ Pettersen February 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

Icarus,
The lease is 10 months plus 2 more. She preferred 10, but did a 12 month because it saved about $200 in fees on the front end. I like the idea of leases overlapping. Saving on moving costs would be great, I think I am definitely going to mention that. We are getting married in October, so starting a lease at another place at that time would give us the month to get our items moved from one apartment to the next. Thanks for the tip. The nice thing is that she got a huge preferred employer discount on the security deposit. Only $99, so we aren’t real worried about losing that. It also seems as though the safety concern is gone, the neighbor wrote an apology letter and appears to be sincerely sorry.

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KM February 15, 2012 at 7:22 am

It’s a shame the lease breaking conditions are so strict. I guess I am a good landlord then because when one of my tenants wanted to move out early (some dude was following her and she thought if she moved, that would help), I allowed it without a problem. The property management company I used kept her deposit and used it to pay for the new tenant fee and advertising, so I didn’t lose anything and she didn’t have to pay anything extra (I mean, that’s what security deposits are for, right? to cover these sorts of things?). I would probably have been just as lenient if it was for another reason (though less happy about it), but I was just lucky a new tenant was found within a month.

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AJ Pettersen February 15, 2012 at 7:35 am

KM,
I wish I had you as a landlord! I don’t think filling our apartment would present any issues, but I understand that if we move out on bad terms it would leave us with a poor view of the complex. This may have a larger effect on the landlord than just losing us as a tenant (with my fiance working for the biggest business in town).

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Allison February 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Wow, I’m glad none of you are my landlord. Paying two months’ rent to move out? Losing the security deposit to pay for advertising? Where I’m from, a security deposit is to reimburse physical damages you caused to the apartment, not to cover the landlord’s ordinary business expense, and you’re supposed to get it back, in full, unless damages occurred. Paying to find a new tenant is absolutely NOT what security deposits are for. 30 days notice is plenty.

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Icarus February 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

AJ, thanks for the reply. Sounds like the neighbor just had a few bad days. Maybe he went to anger management class. Hope it is really resolved.

Congrats on the upcoming wedding. I got married in October and it helps to have an extra space to host out-of-town guests, so keeping the 2nd apartment may benefit there too.

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AJ Pettersen February 15, 2012 at 8:00 am

No problem, thanks for reading my post! I think that is definitely the case.

I appreciate that, hope your first year of marriage is going well. That is an interesting option, I think we are going to get a 2 bedroom place instead of the 1 bedroom she currently has.

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Icarus February 15, 2012 at 8:37 am

2 bdrm will come in handy. 2 bathroom is even better. ;-) .I know that you are pursuing a baseball career and that money might be tight. don’t know where you’re living but perhaps you can find one of these reluctant landlords with a 2/2 condo that is willing to rent to you so that they can move on and buy a house.

good luck.

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Young and Thrifty February 15, 2012 at 11:56 am

Congratulations on your engagement!! If you are worried about breaking your lease you can always move a “roomie” in who will maintain the apartment until the end of the lease. Your landlord might agree to subleasing.

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