Breaking a Lease - What You Need to Know

Authored By: Colorado Legal Services

Know These Things about Breaking a Lease

How can I find out if I can break my lease?

If you have a written lease, you should read it to determine whether and how you can break your lease. You should also read your lease for the timeline and procedures you need to follow to get out of your lease.  

In most cases, unless your lease specifically allows you to end your tenancy early, you cannot get out of your lease without the landlord's permission. 

What if my landlord has done something to make it necessary to break my lease?

It is a different situation if your landlord has done something in violation of the lease. If your lease states that your landlord must do something (i.e. make repairs) and your landlord fails to do it, in theory, you may be able to move out, with notice, without liability (without being responsible for the rest of the lease), but, it is generally difficult for tenants to use legal remedies to enforce the terms of the lease agreement.

In some cases, a landlord may do something (or fail to do something) that either makes the premises unfit for occupancy or impossible to enjoy, like not fixing the furnace in winter.  This is known as “constructive eviction,” and you may vacate the premises within a reasonable time if this occurs. Consult with an attorney before taking this approach  because the landlord may file a lawsuit against you.

Can I break my lease if I am in danger due to domestic violence or abuse?

Yes.  A law allows victims of domestic violence or abuse fear of imminent danger for themselves or their children. To qualify, you must notify your landlord in writing that you are a victim.

You must also provide evidence of the domestic violence or abuse in the form of a police report written within the last 60 days or a valid protection order.

You will owe one month’s rent after you leave the residence if the landlord has documented damages (e.g., loss of money) as a result of your early termination that are equal to at least one month’s rent.  This payment would be due within 90 days of vacating the premises.

Your landlord cannot penalize you for calling the police or other emergency assistance in response to domestic violence.  

Can I just move out before the end of the lease?

If you do not have a solid legal basis for moving out before the end of the lease term, the landlord may successfully sue you for the rent. You could be responsible for rent until the end of the lease term or until the property is rented to someone else, whichever comes first.

What is the responsibility of the landlord if I move out?

The landlord must try to re-rent the property as quickly as possible.

In other words, the landlord cannot leave the apartment vacant until your lease expires without trying to re-rent it, and then try to hold you responsible for rent for that entire period.

Once the landlord re-rents the property, the tenant is no longer legally responsible for the rent after the new tenant starts paying rent.

What is the best thing for me to do if I want to leave the property before the end of the lease?

If you would like to move out before the lease expires, it is in your interest to try to re-rent the property.

Try to find someone who is willing to take over your lease.

Allow your landlord to show the property to other prospective tenants.

To avoid future problems, ,make sure that your landlord agrees to whatever you have arranged before you move out.

If I don't want to lease the property anymore, what should I do?

If you need to terminate your tenancy, you should read your lease to be sure you understand exactly what it says. Refer to your lease for the timing of your notice to terminate the lease. Leases state when and how a lease may be terminated and they usually state that a certain amount of written notice is required from the tenant or from the landlord if either party wants to terminate the tenancy.

I am a month-to-month tenant, what will I need to do?

If you are a month-to-month tenant, you must give a written notice to the landlord if you want to move. The type of notice you must give may be specified in your written lease.

If you have no written lease or the written lease does not specify the type of notice you must give, you must give the landlord written notice at least 10 days before the next rent is due. For example, if you want to move out March 31, you must give your landlord notice on or before March 21 that you are moving.

What if I am unable to give enough notice and my landlord does not agree to let me out of my lease early?

Ask your landlord for some time to talk your options, if any. Try to get your landlord to allow you to move out before the end of your lease.

If your landlord agrees, have your landlord sign a written statement that he/she agrees to neutrally rescind or end your tenancy. The written agreement should be signed and dated by both the landlord and tenant.

What should I keep as a record, in case I need to produce it again?

Keep a copy of the lease, any notices you gave to your landlord, and any notices your landlord gave you.



The information above is provided by Colorado Legal Services. It is intended as general information only, and is not meant as legal advice for any specific situation. If you need legal advice, consult an attorney of your own choosing. If you cannot afford an attorney, talk to Colorado Legal Services: 303-837-1321.



Edited by V_6; edits posted by D_39.

Last Review and Update: Jul 27, 2015