Breaking a lease, but dammit I have finals
November 10, 2010 10:16 PM   Subscribe

I want to break my lease, but I also want to stay on good terms with my landlord. How do I best explain why I want to leave, but not burn any bridges with the landlord?

I'm 2 months into a year long lease. I've decided I need a new place, because my current one isn't quiet or safe.

Current place is a granny flat. Because of the property arrangement, let's just say I know a bit too much about my neighbors. There's been some crime recently that has left me a bit freaked out. I'm losing sleep because I don't feel safe, and because of noisy neighbors. It's never quiet enough to study. The variety of oakie-fixes are no longer cute (plywood covering the gap between the windowpane and window-A/C is one).

I'm in school, so sleep and a quiet place are my top priorities (besides free food). I plan on moving in late January, when I have time and money.

What is the best way to word why I want out? Landlord has so far been decent, but I still need him as a reference. Should I do this in writing? 30 or 60 day notice?

Relevant: I'm in San Diego. Landlord is off site. Rent is cheap, and place is close to many things 20-ish people like (which is why I picked it). I can break the lease if I find a new tenant, and I'm very sure I won't have trouble with that.
posted by shinyshiny to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Some landlords wil let you buy out of your lease, usually for about 2-3 months' rent. If rent is indeed cheap, you should be the first one to make the offer since you signed the lease.
posted by halogen at 10:27 PM on November 10, 2010

The easiest way would seem to be to have the new tenant already lined up when you tell the manager. Then, give him/her 30 days notice.

Since, to him/her there will be no loss of rent revenue, they should not be overly upset about the situation. Also, make sure that the reasons you give for moving out aren't ones that reflect poorly on the property or landlord. That way they wll be less like to be defensive or antagonistic.

It should go without saying that you need to read your lease thoroughly before doing anything.
posted by oddman at 10:41 PM on November 10, 2010

You already answered your own question: you find a new tenant and essentially do the landlord's job of having everything in place for that new tenant to take over, so that landlord isn't losing any rent or additional expense for inspections, etc.
posted by holgate at 10:44 PM on November 10, 2010

Seconding having a replacement lined up (remember to get one who can also pay security deposit!), and as far as what to tell the landlord, just tell him that the neighborhood is not good for you. If you leave it vague, he probably won't be impolite enough to press for more details.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:49 PM on November 10, 2010

Landlords are highly motivated by the prospect of tenants not being able to pay their rent. Eviction is a PITA and not cheap for the landlord. Short-term relationships with tenants are part of being a landlord, and hey, they're people too.

I got out of a lease by explaining that my former roommate and I had decided to share an apartment again because living alone was too expensive. This wasn't a lie whatsoever, though the expense-sharing was a secondary, rather than primary, motivation.

An appeal to the effect of "I tried, I liked this place, but it's a bad fit for me because it's triggering anxiety that is affecting my ability to get my work done and it's not possible for me to keep living here" also might work. Again, this seems like an honest approach.
posted by desuetude at 11:12 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Double and triple check your copy of the lease contract. Look for all the fees they could possibly ding you for.

As far as how to word the letter, I suggest that you first ask, in writing that the problem issues get resolved.


Dear landlord X

I have noticed the following problems with my residence.
1. Shoddy maintenance work on the AC unit
2. Noisy neighbors (cite anything specific you can, especially calls to the cops for noise violations)
3. The fence/gate/other security measures put in place by management are in a derelict condition and need X, Y, and Z repaired.
4. Other problems...
5. Pursuant to sections A, B, and C of our lease contract, please conduct these repairs in a timely manner.

After a reasonable amount of time, if they haven't corrected things, you can cite all of this in your "Eff you, I'm moving out early" letter.

Does that landlord have a manager above them? Recently I had a major dispute with my apartment complex manager. She was rude, insulting, and completely unprofessional. Once I calmed down, I wrote an email to her management company. Two days later I got an email from the regional matter promising to correct the situation. Two days after that, the complex manager personally handed me a reimbursement check and apologized for what happened, and accepted responsibility for negligence on the part of her employees.
posted by AMSBoethius at 11:14 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and YMMV, but I left one apartment in a relocation situation that should have, by all common sense, been a fair reading of acceptable reasons to break the lease. Feeling guilty and also wanting to cover my partner's and my ass, we found replacement tenants who even signed a (not legally binding, acknowledged) sublet agreement with us.

Clusterfuck of mysterious paperwork and double-crossing occurred, we eventually regretted all of the energy and trouble taken, given the additional energy and trouble taken and favor called in and expense required to extricate ourselves from the lease. Lesson learned: you can't win with a landlord who was already determined to be a dick.
posted by desuetude at 11:19 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think being honest with him as much as you can is the best option. And do let him know upfront that you want to move out as soon as possible - so that he has more time to find a new tenant. Its nothing more frustrating for a landlord to only be given short notice. He will appreciate your honesty and understand your genuine need to move out. I don't think there is anything unreasonable in your request, it should all be well received from your landlords end.
posted by MikeJc at 2:19 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a landlord and I've had people request to be let out of their lease early. My lease agreement is pretty standard, but you may have different provisions. Most leases will enable you to sublet or transfer the lease to another party with the approval of the landlord.

I've had a person notify me after they had moved half their stuff to the new place. Not cool. They ended up paying a few months of rent along with an agent fee for a realtor to find a new tenant. I also kept their security deposit. This was all in December -- the worst time of the year for this transition.

I had another person come straight with me and we worked together to advertise & show the place with the understanding that I had to approve of the next tenant and the current tenant was committed to the lease until a transition was made. It ended well and I returned the security deposit even though the lease terms permitted me to keep it.

I'm not a full time landlord. I'm just a dude who has a spare house, rents it out and tries to do a decent thing. If you approach your landlord with a "let's solve this together" attitude I'm pretty sure he or she will too.
posted by dgran at 7:57 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone for your answers. This will help me word what I want to say before I contact my landlord.
posted by shinyshiny at 9:33 AM on November 11, 2010

Take a look at your lease, too - I was sort of surprised when I went to break my lease and found that I couldn't just "give notice", I had to either pay the rent till the end of my lease (or five months, whichever was shorter), or find new tenants - and the landlord got to review the tenants.

My landlord ended up being more than fair when the replacement tenant I found backed out, but be aware that there's a reason it's called a year lease, instead of month-to-month lease. Hopefully your landlord will be just as fair!
posted by ldthomps at 8:37 PM on November 12, 2010

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