Getting out of a lease?
January 20, 2010 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Friend of mine needs advice on how to go about breaking a lease.


My friend lives in a bad area with a roommate who is a drug user and has the wrong people always after him or wanting to see him. My friend also always has weirdos (for lack of a better term) knocking on doors late at night and there have been several break ins around the local area as well. She calls the police 2-3 times a month and has asked me to help her shop for a gun. My first suggestion to her was LEAVE. If you have to buy a gun or have one with you for protection I feel the easiest way to protect yourself is to get out of the environment. She is single and without kids so a move would not be that hard for her. She says there is a lease she is stuck with for several more months. I do not know the terms of the lease or if she can just simply kick her roommate out. Can you break a lease due to personal safety issues? Has anyone else been in this situation before and if so how did you deal with it?
posted by Mastercheddaar to Law & Government (10 answers total)
As usual, many of the responses are going to need to know what state, and ideally what city/county, your friend lives in.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:47 AM on January 20, 2010

IANAL, but people break leases all the time for all sorts of reasons. Recalling my days as a renter, breaking it early meant a financial penalty of some kind. If she can pay it and go, she probably should. If the roommate is also on the lease, I have no idea. Probably worth a call to a lawyer in any case.
posted by jquinby at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2010

This is going to depend on her lease. Usually, there's some financial penalty around 80% of one month's rent, which probably isn't much more expensive than going through the process of getting a weapon plus the necessary training. But her roommate might not be happy with getting stuck paying for a whole apartment or house on his own.

It might be possible for her to find someone to sublet her share of the lease for the remaining few months? Maybe her roommate has some friends who might be willing to take over the lease for her?
posted by muddgirl at 8:51 AM on January 20, 2010

Is her name on the lease? Is the room mate's name on the lease? I would not want to sublet to drug users when my name is still on a lease (and responsible as to what happens to the space, and rent). State/country/jurisdiction would help as well.
posted by kellyblah at 9:14 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Depending on the state / localit she lives in there may be a resource available to her such as the Wisconsin Tenant Resource Center that would be able to answer specific questions and/or provide cheap mediation in a case like this.

Wisconsin Tenant Resource Center
posted by ganzhimself at 10:00 AM on January 20, 2010

Best answer: Here is what I have done in the past, in my personal experiences as a renter. YMMV:

Step 1: Verify there is actually a lease and your friend's name is actually on the lease.

Step 2: Read the lease. Standard leases should specify how early termination works. I have personally seen leases that (a) keep your deposit only, (b) require one or two months rent to break the lease, (c) require you to keep paying rent until a new lessee can be found or the original term of the lease is up, whichever comes first.

Step 3: Look up the Landlord-Tenant laws for your state/county. Your jurisdiction may have rules for how early termination works. Ensure the lease is compliant with those laws, and if not, you can use this in step 4.

Step 4: Talk with the landlord. Once you make it crystal clear you're leaving and its going to happen no matter what, even if the lease requires option (c) above, they will generally negotiate since it's better to get some money than no money. They will threaten debt collection, but will generally only do that as a last resort. Landlords like to get paid. So go negotiate and find out exactly how much it will cost to get him to agree to let her off the lease. Wheel and deal; use anything you can (e.g. are there code violations you might point out?).

Keep in mind most leases require 30days prior written notice you plan to move out. You don't have to give notice on the 1st of the month. If this is going to happen, give notice as soon as you can (step 4 is a good time). Make sure you give them written notice and keep a copy. Include the move-out date and a forwarding address.

As always, you should consult an attorney appropriate for this area, as I am not one.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:26 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nthing everybody who says consult an attorney in her area--it could end up paying for itself.

Beyond that, I would suggest not subletting. For starters, she may end up with another user/dealer staying there under your name as another poster mentioned, but if that isn't the case, then she would be knowingly bringing someone into a dangerous and unhealthy environment and that just isn't ethical.

She needs to find out how much it will cost to break the lease and see if she can negotiate that or whatever, and if she can afford it, break and leave ASAP.

In terms of the actual leaving, since her roommate doesn't seem like the most upstanding citizen, I would recommend she quietly and secretly begins moving any valuables she can to a safe location PRIOR to telling the roommate of her leaving. Who knows what this wacko or his friends will do upon learning she is leaving and this at least protects her valuables.

Make sure she dodges any questions the roommate might have about her new address, etc. She can just lie and say she hasn't found a place yet or she may be going back to school and isn't sure yet or something. But she needs to make a clean break from the roommate and not leave any way for him to find her.
posted by Elminster24 at 11:25 AM on January 20, 2010

I wasn't thinking subletting like "ooh, I won't tell the landlord so that I don't have to pay any penalty". I was thinking more along the lines of "let's find someone to fill my spot so that my potentially-dangerous roommate doesn't think I'm stiffing him for the rent, or so he doesn't have an excuse to track me down later."

But there's a lot of variables in this situation, including which names are on the lease and what the specific terms are.
posted by muddgirl at 11:30 AM on January 20, 2010

You mentioned also trying to get the roommate out. While this probably isn't the safest option since they could come after her and there might still be weirdos coming by, it is certainly an alternative to look at if she absolutely can't get out of the lease in a manner she can financially afford. She could talk to the landlord and see if they will evict him with your friend finding a replacement. Have the landlord take the responsibility, they don't have to say your friend is the one who complained, he can say that neighbors or the police complained to him/her. If your friend is on good terms with the roommate, she can feign anger and disappointment in the decision but be like, "yeah, I don't want to stay here, but I can't afford to break the lease so I'm kinda stuck."
If the roommate is causing issues, I'm surprised neighbors haven't called the cops on him or complained to the landlord.

Another (impractical, not suggesting this) option is to get him arrested and put in jail. You know.
posted by ishotjr at 5:03 PM on January 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thx all.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:29 AM on January 21, 2010

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