When you sign a lease, you generally intend to stay in the apartment for at least the entire year if not longer. However, life changes like a new job or having a child can make it necessary to move before the end of your lease. Here are the available options for getting out of a lease.
Moving Out in the Middle of the Night
Moving out in the middle of the night might work if you are moving to another country and have no bank accounts or property in the United States, but it is otherwise a very bad idea. You could be liable for up to the full remaining rent if you do this.
Many tenants who try abandoning an apartment in the middle of the night think a landlord won't be able to collect from them. They can actually file a lawsuit against you and win a judgment that will destroy your credit while allowing them to garnish your wages or seize money in your bank accounts. The lawsuit will also show up in background checks and make it almost impossible to ever rent another apartment.
Notifying the Landlord You're Ending the Lease Early
The problem with moving out in the middle of the night isn't that you're sneaking out but that you have a contract with the landlord. Therefore, you aren't in any better of a legal position by telling your landlord you're moving out early. The only exception is if you're in a state with a duty to mitigate law that requires the landlord to rerent the apartment and leaves you liable only for the rent while the apartment is empty and cleaning costs.
Exercising a Lease Break Clause
Some leases have a clause that let you end the lease early in exchange for a fee that is usually 2-3 months worth of additional rent. This is a simple process that requires just a few forms and doesn't hurt your credit or give you a negative rental history.
If you have a job with a high chance of being relocated or are finishing your studies, consider asking for a lease break clause in your next lease.
The best option is always to try to work out a deal with your landlord. They might be willing to waive the lease if they think they can get a higher rent, or you might be able to arrange a buyout that's less than they could sue you for.
To learn more about how to get out of a lease or to get help reversing a judgment, contact a local landlord tenant attorney (like those at Powers Law).