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Break Your Lease During COVID-19

6 Tips to Legally Break Your Lease During COVID-19

Many people have been placed in difficult positions because of the pandemic, and some are faced with the inability to pay rent. While CDC authored eviction restrictions are now in place, these are probably only temporary, and some tenants know they will need to move to a different location before their apartment lease is up. The following are some legal strategies that will help you break your lease now.

Talk to Your Landlord

A sensible first step is to have a conversation with your landlord or management company and explain your situation. You can also bring your real estate attorney in on this, too. This conversation’s best result would be that you would be allowed to move out, your lease would be canceled, and no further repercussions would occur. This may seem like a longshot, but it’s worth a try.

Please note that you may have a lot better luck with a ma and pa-type operation than with a major apartment management company. Regardless of who owns your property, try to make sure that your conversion is being held with a decision-maker that has the authority to cut you a break.

Read Your Lease

Your lease gives you certain rights, and you need to understand them. If you have been living in an apartment with a lot of problems, and you have had difficulty getting the landlord to do repairs, that could give you some leverage.

Also, in most states, landlords have the duty to mitigate their damages if you do break the lease and move out before the term ends. This means that the landlord cannot just leave your apartment empty and expect you to continue to pay rent. Instead, the landlord needs to make the effort to find a new tenant to replace you. That said, if you rent in Chicago you need to know your exact laws, just like if you are a resident in another city like San Francisco or New York — remember, all places are different. 

Illegal Landlord Activities

If your landlord has harassed you, has tried to enter your apartment without reasonable notice and has not followed the terms of the lease, he or she may be in violation of the lease agreement, and you may be able to walk away.

Understand the Consequences

If you fail to pay your rent and still occupy a residence, under normal circumstances, you can be evicted. In most localities, this is a court procedure. If a landlord can prove to a court that you have not paid your rent, the court can order the local sheriff to come to your residence, remove your stuff, and throw you out onto the street. If you already have another place to live, you can navigate being evicted. You don’t get arrested, and you don’t go to jail for not paying rent. Yes, the landlord in some circumstances can keep your security deposit, but if the landlord wants the rent money you owe, he or she will have to get a judgment against you and subsequently start collection procedures.

Find a Replacement Tenant

Some leases allow you to sublet your apartment. You’ll usually need your landlord’s permission, and your lease may require you to pay a fee, although your landlord could waive it. Even if you are prohibited from subletting your apartment, if you have found a new tenant and you explain to your landlord that you have to leave because you can no longer afford the rent, your landlord may agree to let you break the lease.

Get it in Writing

If you have been able to get your landlord to agree to break your lease, make sure that you get a written release. In this case, it may be wise to see an attorney that can draft the proper legal document that ends any contractual relationship you have with the landlord. If you don’t do this, you could find yourself legally still on the hook for monthly rent, if, for example, the new tenant you have found does not pay their rent.

During these unprecedented times, make sure you know your rights, and do attempt to communicate with your landlord if you have issues paying the rent. You may be surprised at the result.

Remember, if you’re tired of renting and dealing with a lease, think about potentially buying a house, even if you have a low income, it’s still possible!

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