If your neighbor is harassing you and you’re wondering whether you can break your lease early, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’ll discuss whether breaking lease due to neighbor harassment is legal and offer some advice on how to proceed.
We’ll go into more detail below, but the short answer to your question is as follows:
In general, a tenant can’t break a lease early due to neighbor harassment. That’s because most leases don’t cover this type of activity, but if the harassment meets state law requirements for termination, which may include threatening or dangerous behavior by neighbors, stalking, and sexual assault, you may have a case for breaking the lease.
For example, in Nevada, a tenant may terminate a lease if they are the victim of domestic violence, harassment, stalking or sexual assault. Source.
Many other states may offer similar protections. Check out my 50 state landlord tenant laws page to look up your specific state’s landlord tenant laws.
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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One of the most common reasons tenants try to break their lease is because they’re unhappy with their neighbors. Snide remarks, dirty looks, annoying complaints, and other unfriendly acts can make anyone uncomfortable, especially if they are persistent.
Unfortunately, these unpleasant but commonplace actions aren’t usually enough to terminate a lease.
But if your neighbor’s harassment escalates to a point where you or your property are in real danger, you can report them to law enforcement. They may issue a restraining order or even arrest the offending individual depending on how serious the offense is.
In any event, this solution may remedy the situation.
Related Reading: Of course, feeling unsafe in your own home is a terrible situation. If you want to learn more about how you can break your lease if you are faced with this scenario, you can check out my full article on this topic.
If the neighbor’s harassing behavior persists, however, you can involve your landlord. Your landlord may be able to deal with your neighbor if they are also a tenant of your landlord. If the tenant is not someone who is renting from your landlord, there is likely not much they can do to control the actions of that neighbor.
Now if the situation becomes unbearable and you feel like you must break the lease, you may face termination fees and credit damage. Breaking your lease may also result in a forfeiture of some or all of your security deposit. But we will discuss later how to avoid these types of things from happening.
If your neighbor’s harassment is putting you and your family in potential danger or it has simply gotten to the point where you feel you need to move, there are some steps that you can take to try and get out of the lease.
Step 1: Communicate With Your Landlord
The first step you should do in this situation is to notify your landlord. As I mentioned before, if your neighbor is also a tenant of your landlord, the landlord may be able to exert some influence over them and help to iron out any conflicts. Of course, there are no guarantees here.
Sometimes people will do what they will do, period.
You should be aware that every lease contains an implied term known as the Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment. This term ensures that the tenant generally lives in the property in peace and without disruption.
If a landlord violates this term, the tenant has the option of leaving the rental unit or ceasing to pay rent.
Of course, conflicts between neighbors is likely not something that is caused by the landlord and may, in many cases, be beyond their ability to control. But they may be willing to let you out early if you have notified them of the issue and it continues to happen, despite your (and their) best efforts to make it better.
Step 2: Collect Evidence Against Your Neighbor
If your landlord is unable to resolve the situation with your neighbor and you believe you’re in danger, you should gather as much evidence of your neighbor’s harassment as possible.
You can use the evidence to build a case for breaking your lease. You can also hire an attorney to help you with your case.
Here’s what you can collect as tangible evidence against your neighbor’s harassment:
- Pictures of property damage
- Pictures of physical harm
- Audio recordings of verbal harassment
- Videos from surveillance cameras
- Threatening messages or notes
- Police reports
Not only will collecting this evidence allow you to prove how bad the situation is to your landlord, it may serve to support you if the harassment become criminal at any point in time.
A hardship letter, in this case, informs your landlord about the circumstances that led to your decision to break the lease. Its purpose is to convey sincerity and commitment in order to persuade your landlord.
A lot of times landlords don’t want an unhappy tenant because they fear that the tenant will become a problem tenant. And if the tenant has already expressed their concern around feeling unsafe in the unit and something happens to them, the landlord could be pulled into a situation that he does not want to get pulled into.
Landlords will want to avoid this so, in a lot of cases, they may be willing to find a mutually workable solution.
Step 4: Pursue Other Termination Options
Now if the landlord doesn’t agree to let you out even after you provide the hardship letter, you can still try to negotiate an exit.
For example, you can offer to find another suitable tenant for the unit at the same rent. You can offer to do all of the heavy lifting by market the property, showing it to prospective tenants, etc.
If the landlord is willing, this may not be a bad option. Of course, the landlord may not agree if the lease doesn’t permit sub-leasing, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
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.
Or you could offer to pay the landlord for the right to exit the lease. If you don’t want to shell out any money, you can suck it up and wait for the lease to end. You will need to read the lease carefully to make sure it does not “auto-renew” though (or if it does, you must remember to provide timely notice to the landlord that you don’t want to renew).
A final option you can use if all of the other ones fail is to just vacate the property.
Now you will likely be on the hook to pay the remaining rent in most cases. But in many states, the landlord will be required to mitigate their losses and will need to find a replacement tenant. Once the replacement tenant comes in and starts paying rent (assuming it’s at least the same rent as yours), you will be off the hook for the remaining rent payments.
Bear in mind that, although they are obligated to try to find a replacement tenant, they may not be able to do so quickly (or at all) if the rental market is soft. That means you will be responsible for any remaining rental payments under the lease until they can do so. That could be a lot of money if you have a long time left on your lease.
Another risk of breaking your lease like this is that a landlord may report any non-payment of rent to credit reporting agencies via a collection action and even take you to court. I touched on this at the top of the article and it’s definitely something you want to be aware of.
These actions can have a serious and negative impact on your credit score, which could affect your ability to rent a new place in the future.
It’s definitely a gamble and has a lot of potential downsides, so you should only consider this as a last resort.
But before you choose this final option, consider whether there are any other grounds for termination that we haven’t covered already.
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).
Nobody wants to move because of a bad neighbor, but if the neighbor becomes hostile and puts you or your family in danger, leaving may be the only option. The good news is that there are some practical steps you can take to get out of it.