After a break in, it’s natural to feel traumatized and violated.
If you no longer feel safe in your own home and want to explore whether you can break your lease after this type of intrusion, you are in the right place.
In this article, I am going to discuss whether you can terminate your lease after a break in and provide 4 key steps to follow as you navigate this question.
I’ll also provide some helpful tips on how you can break you lease early, even if all of the facts don’t play out in your favor.
But if you want a quick answer to the question, here’s a summary:
You may be able to break your lease after a break in if it was caused by your landlord’s violation of the lease agreement (e.g., failure to maintain working locks, etc.). In some cases, state laws may provide a way to terminate your lease if other crimes were committed during the break-in, such as sexual assault or stalking.
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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Step 1: What Does Your Lease Say?
Your lease agreement is the first place you should look when trying to figure out whether you can terminate early in the event of a break in.
If the break-in was due to your landlord violating your lease, then you would have a claim for breach of the lease agreement, which should allow you to exit the contract early.
Check lease provisions relating to safety and maintenance. Do they promise to maintain working locks, secure windows, alarm systems, and so on? Did any of those things fail?
If yes, reach out to your landlord in writing and tell them that you would like to move out because there was a breach of the contract and you suffered a break in as a result.
Now, you want to be diplomatic about it because your end goal is not to pick a fight. It’s to get out of your lease without a lot of hassle. So be polite, but firm. State your case reasonably.
But what if your lease is silent on the point or the cause of the break in was not due to the landlord violating the lease?
Well, your case is weaker in that event, but there are still things you can do. On that note, let’s talk about state laws that may come into play.
Related Note: It is a good practice to read your entire lease – there may be early termination provisions or other language that may not be related to the break-in that you can still use to get out of the lease.
Step 2: Check Your State and Local Landlord Tenant Laws
State and local laws vary on when you can terminate your lease early. For example, a number of states allow you to terminate your lease if you are the victim of sexual assault or stalking.
So if your situation falls under either of those categories (for example, you were sexually attacked during the break-in or the person who broke in was a stalker), you should definitely evaluate your rights under state law.
You can contact a lawyer to help you or if you prefer to do it by yourself, I have collected the landlord tenant laws for each state (and the District of Columbia), which you can access here.
If you prefer to have a lawyer assist you, I would try JustAnswer. They boast access to thousands of highly-rated, verified real estate lawyers whom you can connect with via their unlimited chat service.
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Step 3: Evaluate if Your Landlord Was Negligent
If the break in was caused by your landlord’s actions, you may have a claim that they were negligent. For example, if they came to repair something while you were out but did not lock up afterwards (or worse, left the door open) and someone broke in and stole things as a result, that’s a pretty clear example of wrongdoing on their part.
Now whether that will translate to a right to terminate your lease early is a tougher question, but having that moral high ground (and the threat of a lawsuit) should put you in a much better negotiating position to break your lease.
Step 4: Find a Replacement Tenant
If all of the above don’t work, you still have options.
You can talk with your landlord and offer to find them a replacement tenant. If you tell them you will do all of the heavy lifting, such as advertising the property, holding open houses, and providing prospective tenants applications, etc., they may give you the green light.
They will likely want qualified tenants, so you should get their requirements from them before you advertise.
By using this strategy, you are allowing the landlord to keep the place occupied without interruption and getting yourself out of a place that you no longer feel comfortable living in.
Related Reading: If you want to learn more about how to break your lease early by finding a new tenant, check out my full article on the topic here.
So there you have it – a four step answer to the question of whether you can break your lease if someone breaks into your apartment, with some helpful tips along the way.
Now if you want to get out of your lease, but you don’t meet some of the exceptions we discussed above like a breach of the contract by the landlord, or being a victim of sexual assault or stalking, etc., there are other ways to terminate your lease early.
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).