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The rental property meets all your expectations, the location is excellent and the rent is reasonable.
But now you find yourself in some unforeseen circumstance that requires you to relocate and break your lease agreement.
It was just a few months ago that you signed a one-year lease agreement, but now you’re concerned about how the landlord or property manager is going to respond when you try to move out.
As a property management expert and owner of San Diego Premier Property Management, I’ve had the opportunity to prepare, execute and negotiate lease agreements for the better part of a decade. And I can say with all honesty that this scenario happens on a regular basis to even the best of tenants.
Whether it is a one-month, six-month or one-year lease agreement, it is important to understand that the lease agreement and terms agreed upon and signed by both parties constitute a legally binding contact. When they're breached, it can carry monetary and legal consequences (read: it will cost you a lot of money).
With that said, the situation doesn’t have to end poorly. There is no guarantee for success when trying to break a lease agreement, but it is possible to avoid headaches such as a blemished rental history or an unlawful detainer for unpaid rent.
Review the Agreement
The first thing you should do is review the terms of the lease agreement. Search for an existing opt-out clause that will allow for an early release in exchange for an agreed-upon fee. If the fee makes financial sense for you, then it may be in your best interest to utilize the opt-out clause.
Contact the Landlord
If not, then I suggest contacting the landlord or property management company and discussing the situation openly. Try to convey your existing knowledge of your obligations and a willingness to work on a solution that minimizes the potential for rent losses in exchange for an early lease termination.
Help Find a New Tenant
Knowing you are legally responsible for the loss of rental proceeds for the remainder of the lease, it may make sense to offer the landlord or property management company assistance in finding a replacement tenant. There are many things that can be done as a tenant to assist with finding a replacement occupant that will not only help the landlord but also minimize or completely avoid out of pocket expenses on your behalf.
Offering to market the property (Craigslist, newspaper, etc.), conducting daily showings, allowing easy access for potential applicants and keeping the unit spotless for showings are all ways to assist the landlord or property management company in finding a new renter for the property. If the new applicant meets all of the landlord's or property manager's written rental requirements, then you may have found the perfect solution.
Salvatore Friscia is a seasoned real estate investor and a residential property management specialist, focusing on single-family homes, condos and small apartment complexes. He is the founder of San Diego Premier Property Management as well as The Friscia Group One, an investment group focused on distressed properties. He is a regular contributor to the industry blog All Things Property Management by Buildium, a property management software company.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.