Ideas for getting rid of my old lease?
August 6, 2010 9:45 AM   Subscribe

I moved to a new city - now I need ideas for getting out of my old lease.

I was living in Wisconsin. 2 months ago I took a new job in a city pretty far away. I informed my landlord, who agreed to show the place and re-rent (not sublet) it if we find someone new. But he was careful to remind me that I'm liable for rent until it re-rents. I moved and rented a new place.

2 months later I'm staring months of paying double rent, and I don't like it. What's worse is I had just signed a new lease, so I'm liable for another 9 months of rent - I may lose almost $10k over the next year on double rent. Once we get into fall I'm pretty boned - no one moves to Wisconsin in November, so demand is going to plummet. I read and reread my lease, and there is no provision for early termination. There have been multiple showings, but no bites.

I realize that "beg the landlord to let you out" is step #1. I will do that, and tips on the best things to say are appreciated. But I'm looking for my next step if that doesn't work.

I'm asking you for ideas to get out of this lease if begging doesn't work. Be creative - anything from "offer rent incentives" to "advertise better" to "hire a lawyer to wrangle with the landlord until he realizes this is unprofitable and gives in." Specifics would be appreciated. How much of an incentive should I offer? What are the best websites to advertise on? What's my strategy if I get mean and lawyer up?

Also, I read *somewhere* that the landlord must make reasonable attempts to re-rent the place. How can I use that to help me out? 10 months of double rent doesn't seem reasonable.
posted by Tehhund to Work & Money (5 answers total)
I don't have any specifics to provide about Wisconsin law or the Wisconsin rental market, but if things look bad, you might think about finding a way to bribe the prospective new tenants. You could offer to pay their first two months of rent if they sign up for a year and get you off the hook. It would be expensive, but it would sure beat ten.
posted by willbaude at 9:56 AM on August 6, 2010

What city are you in? Check local laws, tenant unions. You are not only bound by what's in the lease. You have already given notice that you were moving, in some places that's enough to be out of a lease in 30 days.
posted by lee at 10:13 AM on August 6, 2010

Some landlords will allow you to "buy out" your lease for something like 2-3x the monthly rent, regardless of how soon they find a new renter. You can propose that to him, but it seems that he has a pretty good deal going on. For all you know, he could have already rented out the place.
posted by halogen at 10:22 AM on August 6, 2010

Best answer: Sounds as if you, and other posters, have anticipated most solutions. The odds are that you are liable for the term of the lease as long as the landlord makes reasonable and consistent efforts to rent it. Is it possible for you to sublease it for a more favorable rental amount than the landlord (using a network of old friends.contacts, etc.) Even if you have to pay a friend or the present landlord a "management fee" to keep an eye on it. It seems to me it is going to come down to a matter of either incentivising the landlord or new tenants. If all other efforts fail you could retain an attorney to try and negotiate something on your behalf. It would seem that the only reasonable case you would have is if the landlord is not making reasonable efforts to rent it--an attorney could assess this for you. I am sure you know but the general criteria for breaking a lease are military service, serious damage to the apartment or serious health problems.

To answer your specific questions--I would subsidize rent 10-25% based on absolute rental amount and rental market. I think if you decide on a get tough approach--you can only leverage to the extent you have leverage and the only leverage I see are: The landlords efforts to make a diligent effort to rent it, the landlord's conscience (???--he/she is running a business in tough times) or a significant bonus if it is rented.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:49 AM on August 6, 2010

I am confused why you didn't say in the beginning, "Hi, Landlord! I'm relocating for a job. Can I pay, say, 2 or 3 months extra rent and vacate in 30 days?"

halogen is right - you have no guarantee the landlord is showing the place OR hasn't rented it already.

One solution is to sublet on your own. Another is to (nicely!) contact your landlord and ask about negotiating a FIRM end date for your lease. At this point, I wouldn't pay more than 2 more months. As in, you pay 2 months rent and the lease ends immediately.

It's fair to both parties.

There may indeed be some state or city law that protects you, but try negotiating first.

Give your landlord an incentive to find a new tenant asap. I kinda think he's taking advantage as I've never heard of a landlord enforcing a lease when a tenant is relocated for work, beyond maybe getting a few extra months rent beyond the move-out date.

Don't give up until this is resolved to your satisfaction.
posted by jbenben at 12:14 PM on August 6, 2010

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