If you’ve received an awesome new job offer in a new city, you’re probably excited at the new opportunity, but you may also be a bit worried if you still have some time left on your lease.
It’s a legitimate concern, especially if you have a lot of time left because most leases will keep you on the hook for paying any rent that is due on that remaining time (subject o a landlord’s mitigation of damages – more on that later).
In this article, I am going to discuss whether you can break your lease if you change jobs and how to navigate the process so that you can minimize any issues with relocating for your new gig (including some concrete tips on getting out of that lease without penalty).
If you don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:
Unless your lease states otherwise, you will generally not be able to terminate your lease if change your job. However, depending on state and local laws, you may be able to terminate your lease early on other grounds or you can try to negotiate an early termination with your landlord.
Ok, we’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Why Can’t I Break My Lease Early if I Change Jobs?
As a general matter, you don’t have the right to break your lease if you change jobs. If you have signed a long term lease, both you and the landlord agreed to honor that and the contract is binding for the entire length of your lease.
Of course, there are exceptions to this general rule. For example, if your lease has a specific provision relating to job changes or relocations, you may be in luck.
For example, my lease allows tenants to terminate if they are transferred 50 miles or more away from the property by their employer. They are required to provide a copy of the transfer letter, the final month’s rent, and a termination fee equal to one month’s rent.
But not every lease has something like this, so make sure you read yours carefully to see if there is something on point.
I would highlight that there is only one very specific instance that lets someone break their lease for work, and that’s for active military service members. That’s because the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or the SCRA, provides active-duty personnel with the right to terminate leases without penalty, subject to certain conditions.
To learn more about the SCRA and how it impacts lease agreements, check out my article on the topic here.
Ok, so what if you lease doesn’t give you an out? Is all hope lost? Not at all. Let’s explore some other options you can use to get out of your lease when you get a new job.
5 Ways to End Your Lease If You Get a New Job
1. Look for Other Termination Rights in Your Lease
There may be other termination rights embodied in your lease that could give you way to end your tenancy without violating your lease.
The most obvious example is if you are on a month to month lease. In that case, you can terminate the lease very quickly – usually with no more than 30 days notice.
Other leases may allow you to terminate by simply paying an early termination fee. Depending on how big the fee is, this may be a reasonable option for you.
If your landlord has violated the lease, you may have grounds for terminating it – for example, if they have not made important repairs or there is something that is a hazard to your health or safety, you may have the right under the lease to termiante.
Bottom line: check your lease carefully to see if there is something you can hang your hat on.
2. Check State or Local Laws That May Allow Early Termination
The second thing you can do is to see if any state or local laws permit early termination in your situation. To the best of my knowledge, state and local laws do not give tenants an early termination right simply because they change jobs, but there may be other situations that may apply to you that do give rise to a termination right.
But you may want to explore if there are other provisions in your landlord tenant laws that may apply.
For example, if your dwelling is uninhabitable due to mold, pests or other unsanitary conditions, you may be able to break your lease early, depending on your landlord tenant laws. Similar provisions often exist if you are the victim of domestic violence, you are facing harassment or danger, or you are facing physical or mental health issues that can be addressed by moving out.
Check out my full article on how to break your lease early without penalty for more details. It includes 11 situations where you can terminate early (plus one bonus option that applies in all situations).
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3. Negotiate a Compromise With Your Landlord
This is one of the best options you can take.
Just because your lease doesn’t allow a termination when you have job change or relocation doesn’t mean you can work out a solution with your landlord.
You can offer to pay a reasonable termination fee instead of being on the hook for the entire remaining lease amount. You can appeal to their sense of fairness (and also highlight to them that as a practical matter, you just don’t have that much money).
Many landlords may be willing to accept this payment, especially if they are in a hot rental market and can easily re-rent the unit.
Another option is to offer to find a replacement tenant at the same rent and with the same terms as your lease.
You can offer to handle the listing process (and any costs associated with marketing the property) and show the unit to prospective tenants. That takes most of the work away from the landlord and they may be receptive to that.
4. Walk Away From the Lease and Hope Your Landlord Mitigates Damages
A last resort (and I really mean last resort) is to break your lease and rely on your landlord’s obligation to try to find a replacement tenant so that they can mitigate their damages.
As I referenced earlier, landlords generally have a legal obligation to mitigate damages (in other words, they have to try to find a new renter and can’t simply sit on their hands and make you pay the entire remaining rent).
But this comes with a lot of risk to you. In a slow market, even if your landlord is trying to mitigate damages, the demand for the rental may simply not be there. That means you could be facing huge liabilities.
Also, your landlord can sue you for breach of contract and if they win, that can show up on your public records, which can make getting a new place difficult.
Again, this is not an ideal option and should only be used as a last resort and after you have consulted with your lawyer to make sure you understand the full scope of risk involved in doing this.
5. Negotiate a Relocation Package With Your New Employer
Some employers provide a relocation package that could cover the cost of breaking a lease, travel expenses, and mover fees.
This would be a great option if you can negotiate something like that with your employer. Of course, you will want to get ahead of this and not ask after you have settled on your pay package. You have the most leverage before you accept the job, so make sure you try to wrap this in if you think you will need it.
Breaking your lease and changing your job can be a tumultuous experience, but it doesn’t have to be costly and painful. Explore the tips we have provided and see if you can arrive at a good place with your landlord.
Hopefully this has been helpful and happy renting!