If you lost your job and are wondering whether you can get out of your lease, you are in the right place.
In this article, I will be discussing whether you can break your lease in the event of a job loss and will provide tips on how to manage that situation (at least from a lease perspective).
We’ll cover all of that in detail below, but the short answer to the question is as follows:
As a general rule, you cannot break your lease due to job loss, unless the lease permits it or the landlord is willing to accommodate your request. But there are other options available to you, including finding other grounds for termination, securing a replacement tenant, or terminating early and hoping that the landlord quickly finds a new tenant.
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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Can I Break My Lease If I Lose My Job?
In order to answer this question, the first place you want to look is your lease. It’s rare to see a clause in a lease that allows a tenant to get out of the lease due to job loss, but there may be other provisions in the contract that you can look for to see if they apply.
These include clauses that indicate that your lease is month to month (in which case, you can typically get out with some brief notice to the landlord). There may also be provisions that allow you to sublease the apartment or terminate the lease if you pay a penalty (more on that later).
Now, if your lease does not have these types of provisions, then you may want to look at your state and local landlord-tenant laws.
Note: Check out our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenants laws of your state.
It is possible that your state or local government may have unusual provisions in the landlord-tenant laws that offer a way out for people who have lost their job. So it’s worth checking out. That being said, I would not have high hopes…most jurisdictions do not have such provisions in place.
If neither your lease nor your landlord tenant laws permit you to get out of your lease due to job loss, don’t lose hope. There are some other options available to you…
Review Your Lease Carefully
As I mentioned earlier, you will want to look over your lease carefully.
Obviously, a month to month lease is ideal because you can terminate on very short notice and you are no longer liable for paying rent under your lease once it expires.
Some leases also contain a “buyout” clause. This is a provision that allows a tenant to end the lease early if they pay a fee. Usually, these clauses require some advance notice, but it can be a nice option if it’s there. It will certainly be better than being on the hook for all of the rental payment remaining on the lease (assuming you have a good amount of time left).
You should also review the lease to see if there are any conditions or other termination rights that you can exercise. If the unit is unsafe, or there are other conditions that apply to your situation, see what the lease says about that.
Communicate with Your Landlord
Let your landlord know that you lost your job. Communicate with them as soon as it happens and let them know what you plan to do to be able to afford the upcoming rent payments.
Tell them exactly how long you can afford to keep up with payments with your current financial situation. See if they will set you up on a payment plan based on the finances that you currently have available.
If they are not able to work with you on the rent while you live there, then see if your landlord will let you out with a modest payment. Usually, landlords don’t want to take a tenant to court because this can sometimes be more expensive for them than the amount of rent that you owe. If you are open and communicate with them, they may be willing to work something out with you.
Find a Replacement Tenant
Another option is to offer to find a replacement tenant for your unit. This can be a pretty nice option for your landlord. Especially if you offer to list the unit, take all of the emails and calls from prospective tenants, arrange for showings, and basically handle all of the hassle associated with finding a new tenant.
To do this, ask your landlord if they have a listing description that they have used in the past and any photos you can use. In many cases, they will be more than happy to oblige. You will also need to know their screening requirements (e.g., minimum income levels, credit score cutoffs, etc.), so you can perform initial screenings on tenants.
I have found a lot of success finding tenants on zillow.com and apartments.com, so you may want to check them out.
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.
Terminate Your Lease Early without Permission
As a last resort, you may want to leave the unit and not pay any further rent.
But if you do that, you run the risk being on the hook for the remainder of the rental payments under the lease. That’s the bad part.
However, there is a silver lining. In most jurisdictions, the landlord is required to mitigate damages by trying to find a suitable replacement tenant. Once they do, you will no longer be on the hook for your lease.
It’s a gamble, so you should only use this as a last resort, because if they are not able to find a replacement tenant fast, you will be liable for the entire remainder of the rent.
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.
But some landlords may just decide to cut their losses and not sue, especially if they know that you lost your job and have no money.
Litigation is expensive and it’s a pain (even for landlords), so they may just chalk up your departure as a lost cause and work on finding a new tenant to fill the vacancy.
It’s a far from a perfect option, but it’s a ray of hope when all other options have been exhausted.
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).
Losing you job is awful and not being able to get out of a lease you can no longer afford is only adding to the anxiety you are surely facing. But the good news is that there are some solid options you can explore to get out of your lease (even if your lease and your state laws don’t allow for it).