Tips & Guides / Leases

How Much Does It Cost to Break a Lease?

By Bri Hand | Mar 25, 2024
Closeup of hand holding a pen pointing to a line at the end of a lease.

How much does it cost to break a lease? And can you even get out of a lease early? If you’re ready to move, here’s everything you need to know.

You land a dream job across the country, move in with a partner last minute, or need to be closer to an ailing family member. Life is unpredictable. And sometimes, that means making big changes on short notice — including where you call home. 

Leaving an apartment quickly could mean breaking a lease agreement. So how much does it cost to break your lease? And what’s the best way to do it without burning bridges? While all landlords have unique terms for breaking a lease, understanding the basics of rental agreements, lease-breaking fees, and tenant rights can help you save money and stress.

Whether breaking a flexible month-to-month agreement or a traditional long-term lease, here’s how to make informed decisions that smooth the path to your next big adventure. 

How Much To Break a Lease? Lease Break Fees for Tenants

Figuring out how much it is to break a lease doesn’t have to be a mystery. Landlords often include early lease termination fees in your rental agreement to protect themselves financially if you decide to move out ahead of schedule, which means you should be able to find them easily. 

Here are the most common payment structures property managers use to handle lease breaks:

1. Flat Fees

flat fees for early lease break

A flat fee is a one-time, fixed amount that covers the cost of an early lease break. It’s a straightforward method, but the actual amount you owe will depend on the property management’s preferences and standards.

Here are three common flat fee payment policies:

  • Early termination fee: An early termination fee typically equals 2–4 months’ rent. The number of months should be clear in the rental agreement. Some companies and landlords may calculate an early termination fee with flat monthly rates higher than your rent to cover extra fees. 
  • Apartment lease buyout: You may be responsible for paying all the rent due for the remainder of the lease terms — also known as buying out your lease. For example, if you left six months before your lease would naturally end, you’d have to pay six months’ worth of rent.
  • Amount of remaining rent and security deposit: Landlords who want to discourage breaking leases early might charge you the remaining rent in addition to your security deposit amount. 

2. Additional Fees

additional fees for early lease break

Early termination fees may not be the only fees you’ll have to pay. In some cases, you may have to pay additional costs to break a lease. These may include: 

  • Late or back rent 
  • Utilities
  • Unit damage costs
  • Cleaning fees
  • Costs associated with finding a new tenant

3. Pay Rent Until a New Tenant Is Found

person paying rent

Under this agreement, you cover rent until the landlord or management company finds a new tenant. This kind of rental agreement is a wildcard — finding someone new could happen in a week or drag on for months. 

Be aware that some landlords might also tack on additional fees to cover advertising or brokerage fees to rent the property. Double-check your rental agreement and talk with your landlord about their expectations. Sometimes, you can bring costs down if you help find a new renter.

How To Break Your Lease Easily: Pay the Whole Rent Upfront

If you face an uncertain future and don’t want to deal with what happens if you break your lease, volunteering to pay your rent in full beforehand can bypass early termination fees. That means when you sign a yearly lease, you pay 12 months’ worth of rent upfront. 

The approach has two major advantages: 

  • No monthly stress: Once you pay, there’s no need to worry about monthly rent.
  • Leave on your terms: Theoretically, your upfront investment means you can end your lease early without financial penalties. 

Paying the entire rent upfront is something you’ll likely have to bring up yourself when you sign. Not all landlords will accept upfront payments, so be prepared for a “No.” If yours is hesitant, highlight the mutual benefits, and make sure they know they’ll receive the full amount regardless of how long you stay.

This rent payment strategy is most practical for people bracing for major life changes, like digital nomads eyeing a new home base or individuals on the brink of homeownership. But if you’re pretty sure you’ll leave before your lease is up, it might not be worth signing in the first place. Find a month-to-month agreement or flexible long-term rental, like Landing, instead.

How To Cut Lease Break Fees

How do you get out of your lease without paying a bunch of fees? While it’s tricky to break an agreement completely for free, you can use these strategies to try:

1. Negotiate With Your Landlord

two women negotiating

Instead of constantly wondering what happens if you break your lease, just ask. Your landlord is human. A respectful conversation about your situation and willingness to find a middle ground could translate to reduced — or even waived — lease-breaking fees. 

When it comes to negotiating, try out the following: 

  • Relate to your landlord with a clear and courteous explanation of your circumstance. 
  • Offer to lend a hand with maintenance and repairs as a trade-off for lowering the lease-breaking fee, such as painting, deep cleaning, or hiring and supervising maintenance crews.
  • Assist them in searching for a reliable new tenant to take over the lease.

Before you get to the point of breaking your lease, keep up a good relationship with your landlord or property manager. Pay rent and utilities on time and stay courteous. Paying it forward might compel your landlord to be more flexible with the lease terms. 

2. Find a New Tenant or Sublease

woman showing an apartment to a man

Another strategy to mitigate your lease-breaking fee is to find someone to take over your lease, saving the landlord the work. With approval, the new tenant could assume your lease agreement, potentially eliminating fees and securing the return of your security deposit. You should have the same criteria for a new tenant as your landlord — like a good credit report, solid rental history, and sufficient income — to avoid a bad match.

You can also consider subletting your rental. Subletting is when you rent your apartment to another renter. The lease stays yours, but another tenant stays in the apartment and pays you for the space. Check your rental agreement for subletting clauses, like landlord approval, a formal sublease agreement, or restrictions that prevent you from charging the subletter more than your current rent. 

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3 Situations To Legally Break Your Lease

Whether you’re renting or leasing, you can get out of your lease early in several situations, like unlivable conditions or landlord harassment. You have the right to leave an unsafe situation. 

But don’t just move out and cancel rent payments. Seeking legal advice will help you learn how to legally break a lease and avoid financial or legal actions from your landlord, like a lowered credit score due to a failure to pay rent that negatively impacts your ability to get approved for another apartment. 

Here’s how to get out of an apartment lease early and break a binding contract: 

1. The Rental Unit Isn’t Habitable 

mold in an apartment

You don’t just deserve a safe and habitable space. It’s your right. If the rental property is uninhabitable beyond your control, you’re likely entitled to terminate the rental lease without financial consequences. Uninhabitable living conditions can include:

  • Significant weather damage, like flooding that compromises the building’s foundation
  • A lack of essential utilities or failure to meet safety and health standards, like black mold or no electricity
  • Significant repair needs, like a collapsed ceiling or broken heating system

2. You’re Experiencing Domestic Violence

fist punching a wall

Although there isn’t a national landlord-tenant law that covers domestic violence situations, many states have statutes that provide protection to victims of domestic violence, assault, harassment, or stalking. If the perpetrator lives with or near you, you can likely break your lease for free and with no fees.

If this applies to you, you may be required to produce a lease termination letter with documentation, such as a protection order, written police report, or affidavit.

3. Your Landlord Violates Your Tenant Rights 

tenant rights contract

Landlords hold a lot of power in the landlord-tenant dynamic — but that doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want. Here are three common tenants’ rights: 

  • Your landlord is required to provide notice before entering your rental unit, except in certain emergencies. 
  • Your landlord’s housing decisions or eviction cannot be based on race, gender, religion, disability, or familial status. 
  • Your landlord is responsible for following structural, health, and safety standards. 

If your landlord breaks these rules or encroaches on the lease terms, you can make a strong case for constructive eviction. Constructive eviction is when you have no alternative but to terminate the lease and vacate the property. Be sure to seek legal advice to understand your rights under local landlord-tenant laws.

Unjustifiable Reasons To Break a Lease

Not all reasons for breaking a contract are legally protected. Here are a few scenarios that won’t justify breaking a lease agreement:

  • Upgrading or downgrading your apartment
  • Dissatisfaction with neighbors or apartment complex
  • Change in personal or financial circumstances
  • Finding a better deal elsewhere

What About Early Termination Clauses?

Even if you plan to fulfill your lease, circumstances can change and make a move unavoidable. But the good news is that hindsight is 20/20. Typically, what happens if you break your lease early is clearly outlined in the lease — so you can check beforehand and know what to expect if you decide to move. 

Read the early termination clause in your lease with a fine-toothed comb, checking for notice periods, financial responsibilities, and any other details about what happens at the end of your lease. Understanding your early termination clause means there won’t be surprises if you decide to leave, helping you get out of a lease or navigate landlord disputes more effectively.

Limit Fees With Landing

Landing offers flexible leases for furnished, month-to-month apartments nationwide, letting you stay for as long as you like without extra fees or hidden costs to pick up and move. 

Whether you want to stay in your place for a month or a year, switching places is as easy as giving 30 days’ notice. Plus, our membership-based national network requires no upfront application fees, security deposits, or additional monthly rent. All you have to bring is your bags.

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.