If you find yourself living with a violent roommate and want to know if you can break your lease early, you are in the right place.
As you well know, this of type of situation can be extremely dangerous and finding a way out of it should be a top priority.
After all, your home is supposed to be a safe haven for you – if that’s not the case, you need to remedy that.
In this article, I am going to explore whether you can break your lease in the event that your roommate is violent and take you through some options for doing so.
If you are in a rush, here’s the short answer to the question:
If your roommate is violent, you may be able to break your lease under your state and local laws. Many jurisdictions allow early termination if you are the victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse or assault, or stalking. But to do this, you will often need to give advance notice to your landlord and proof of the violent activity (like a restraining order).
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.
We may earn commissions from products and services that are purchased or recommended through our website as part of our affiliate partnerships. As an Amazon affiliate, we may earn from qualifying purchases.
Step 1: Check Your Lease
The first step in determining whether you can break your lease early is always looking at your lease with a careful eye.
Some obvious “escape hatches” may be there.
For example, if you are on a month to month lease, then obviously getting out is easy and quick. Your lease may also have some sort of early termination clause, which basically lets you get out of the lease by paying some early termination fee (I’ve often seen it equal to one or two month’s rent).
If you are experiencing some sort of life change, such as a job relocation, etc., you may also qualify for early termination, depending on whether your lease permits it.
Bottom line: Read your lease line by line to see if you can find something to get you out.
Step 2: Check Your State Laws
Ok, now I’ve mentioned state laws at the beginning of the article, so let’s dive deeper into that.
Some states have passed laws that protect tenants if they are the victims of domestic abuse, sexual harassment or assault, or stalking.
Some states, like California, also allow tenants to get out of a lease if they (or their family) are the victims of other crimes, like human trafficking, elder abuse, or a crime that (i) caused bodily injury or death (ii) include use of a firearm or (iii) included use of force or a threat of force against the victim. Source
Usually, you need to provide proof this type of activity, which usually comes in the form of a restraining order or protective order against the roommate. The overall process for invoking this termination right is to notify your landlord in advance (and in writing) of your intent to terminate due to this and provide your proof.
Now if you don’t know whether your state allows this type of early termination, then you will either need to consult with a qualified lawyer or do your own research.
If you prefer to do the latter, you can explore your state’s landlord tenant laws, 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.
By clicking the banner below, you can get a one week trial membership for only $5, which you can cancel at any time.
What if My Lease and State Laws Don’t Allow Early Termination in My Situation?
If you have examined your lease and state laws and your situation doesn’t qualify for early termination, don’t lose hope, there are other options available.
Ask Your Roommate to Leave
If your violent roommate is still living with you and you have not gotten a restraining order, you can always try to ask them to find another place to stay.
They may not agree, but it’s one option to consider (if you feel safe asking them, of course).
If they do leave, then you will likely be responsible for the full rent, so bear that in mind. Of course, you can try to find another roommate to help shoulder the financial burden (but check with your landlord on this).
Break the Lease Amicably With the Landlord
Another option is to talk it out with you landlord.
Inform your landlord or property manager the moment violence occurs within your rental place and try to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution with your landlord. Maybe they’ll have the heart to understand your situation and let you out of the lease.
Landlords may also start eviction proceedings against your roommate if they have violated the agreement due to their actions.
So instead of you having to leave, you may be able to stay in your rental place without your violent roommate (although, as mentioned above, you may need to find a replacement roommate quickly, unless you can afford the full rent on your own).
Find a Replacement Tenant
Another option is to leave the premises and offer your landlord and your roommate a replacement tenant (assuming your violent roommate is still living in the premises).
By doing this, you are allowing the landlord to keep the place occupied and your roommate the ability to stay on if they’d like.
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.
Unilaterally Vacate the Property
A final option is that you can simply walk away from the property.
This is not an ideal option because you will likely be on the hook to pay the remaining rent in most cases.
But in many jurisdictions, landlords must “mitigate” their losses, which means that they have an obligation to find a replacement tenant. Once they do, you may be off the hook.
A word of caution, though.
Even though the landlord tries to find someone else to take over your lease, they may have trouble doing it fast if the rental market is soft. That could leave you on the hook for rental payments for a long time.
Another risk of breaking your lease like this is that a landlord may report any non-payment of rent to credit reporting agencies and take you to court. 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.
So there you have it – an answer to whether you can break your lease if your roommate is violent and some tips on how to do it.
Now if you want to get out of your lease, but you don’t think you have grounds to do so based on your roommate’s behavior, 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).