A Clean Break

Say you’ve signed a one-year lease but, four months in, you have to move. If it’s due to a “hardship” reason (lost job, bitter divorce, family tragedy), land­lords are likely to be lenient. But if it’s for other reasons, say a better apart­ment, they might not be so sanguine.

Like it or not, when you sign a year lease you are personally liable for the rent for the remainder of the term. So tread carefully. Always speak to the landlord first. Once it’s in writing, it’s on the record, and you’ll want to gauge her reaction before announcing your desire to break the lease.

Gently explain your situation, then offer to help find a new tenant, place a listing, and screen potential renters (or, even better, present her with a new candidate). Offer to spruce up the unit by painting or doing minor repairs. Do some research on the market and share your findings. If things are com­pet­i­tive, suggest that she could raise the rent! Finally, if she's still resistant, offer to pay the first month’s rent after you vacate. It hurts, but it’s better than being taken to small claims or higher court. Your landlord may not take it that far, but she can seriously destroy your credit, which may be even worse.

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