Breaking a Lease - What You Need to Know
Authored By: Colorado Legal Services
- How can I find out if I can break my 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. If you have a written lease, you should read it to determine whether 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.
- 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 this is the case, the landlord may have broken the lease, not you. 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); although this can be very difficult to enforce.
In fact, if your landlord's breach of the lease has made it impossible or unsafe to continue residing at the premises, this could be known as 'constructive eviction'. In other words, if your landlord's actions or failure to act results in your inability to continue living at the premises, your landlord has essentially evicted you. In any case, you are encouraged to consult with an attorney before doing so, because the tenant who takes this approach should be prepared to defend their actions in a lawsuit started by the landlord.
- Can I break my lease if I am in danger due to domestic violence or abuse?
Yes. As of July 1, 2005 victims of domestic violence or abuse that seek to break their lease due to fear of imminent danger for themselves or their children may do so if they provide their landlord with 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 AND if they pay their landlord one month's rent within 90 days after vacating the premises.
- Can I just move out before the end of the lease?
If you do not have a successful claim that your landlord has broken your lease and you move 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 has the legal responsibility to try and 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. You may also try to find someone who is willing to take over your lease. You should also allow your landlord to show the property to other perspective tenants. To avoid future problems, you should 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 which needs to be given may be specified in your written lease. If you have no written lease or the written lease does not state the type of notice which needs to be given, 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?
You should 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 if my landlord will not agree to allow me to move out before my lease ends and I am unable to give enough notice to my landlord as required by the lease or law?
If you are unable to give enough notice to your landlord, try to give as much written notice as possible. If you do not give enough notice, the landlord may be able to recover money from you. The landlord may be able to keep your deposit. He or she may also be able to sue you for the costs of finding a new tenant. You may also have to pay the rent the landlord lost while the apartment was vacant.
- What should I keep for my records, in case I need to produce them again?
Keep a copy of the lease and any notices that you gave to your landlord, or 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.