You’ve recently moved into an apartment and signed a standard 6- or 12-month lease. A lease is a contract in which you agree to stay for a specified time, and the landlord agrees to lease you that apartment for a specified time at a determined amount of rent. However, something has come up in your life that requires you to leave early or “break” the lease. Common reasons I see are:
  • You got a new job and need to move.
  • You want to move in with your significant other.
  • Your apartment is miserable, and you want out.

My first piece of advice is to remain till the end of the lease if you possibly can. This will save you a lot of trouble. Because if you break your lease, your landlord can sue you for the amount of rent owed on the remainder of the lease. In other words, if your rent is $1,000 per month, you’ve signed a 12-month lease, and you decide to move after only 6 months, the landlord can sue you for the remaining 6 months rent or $6,000 plus attorney’s fees and costs. Obviously you want to avoid this.

My second tip is to negotiate with the landlord before you break the lease. Maybe you can work out a deal with him in which you pay him some money or reach some other kind of arrangement.

This blog will provide some ideas for defenses in case the landlord sues or tools to use in negotiation with your landlord before you move. In my experience, the landlord rarely sues in a residential lease. It’s just not worth his time, but it does happen. Here are some common defenses:
  • Failure to Mitigate – This means that the landlord must act to reduce his damages. In plain English, this means the landlord must seek to rent the apartment and can’t just leave it empty till the remainder of the lease so that the damages add up. He must market the apartment, offer it at a reasonable rent, and rent it to any qualified tenants. If he rents the apartment for any of the months remaining on the lease, he must reduce the damages he is seeking by the amount of rent he receives from the new tenant. Maybe you can help your landlord find a new tenant before you move.
  • Implied Warranty of Habitability – Maybe your apartment is a dump. There are roaches, ants, the plumbing didn’t work, etc. When you move into an apartment, there’s an implied warranty that the place is habitable. Let’s say you’ve complained to your landlord numerous times, and after a reasonable period he hasn’t fixed the problems, you can then move. If he later sues you for breach of lease, defending yourself by saying that the apartment was inhabitable can get you out of damages.
  • Breach of Lease – the landlord must live up to his end of the bargain and comply with the lease as well. For example, if the lease says that there is air conditioning, and there is not. Well, then, the landlord has breached the lease. If you move out prior to the lease, you can defend yourself by saying it was because the landlord breached the lease first.

  • There are many more defenses than those listed above. These are ones pertaining to common issues that I see.

  • Call my office if you are in this situation and want to know your options. I can be reached by phone or e-mail for a free consultation. (213) 223-2350 or

The above is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please seek advice from counsel.