Breaking a lease rarely end wells. Lease agreements are common when renting a house or an apartment. These documents spell out the terms of an agreement, such as the start date and the termination date. The typical lease has a one-year term, wherein tenants must live in the dwelling and pay rent for a 12-month period. 

In a perfect world, tenants would never break a lease. But sadly, we live in a world that's affected by unemployment, layoffs, divorce and illness. All are justifiable reasons for breaking a lease. However, having a justifiable reason doesn't mean that a landlord will end a lease early. There are ways to break a lease without penalty, but this often involves a little creative thinking and negotiating. 

Consequences of Breaking a Lease

Tenants who break a rental lease are likely to face legal issues. Landlords might attempt to collect back rent payments on their own. But if unsuccessful, some landlords file a civil lawsuit and go before a judge. Going to court seldom benefits tenants. Unless the landlord failed to offer a safe, livable condition or breached the lease terms, tenants are liable for the full lease balance.

Tenants can pay back rent to avoid credit consequences, such as a judgment. Judgments stay on credit reports for seven years and lower credit scores. For this reason, it's imperative that tenants avoid judgments and settle their balance with their landlord. 

Breaking a Lease - How to Avoid Consequences

Talk with the landlord. Landlords are human beings and they can empathize with a tenant's financial hardship. However, landlords are only understanding when tenants are upfront. Skipping out on a lease early isn't likely to win over a landlord and this action may move him to take legal action. Tenants who speak with their landlord early and explain their hardship are likely to receive help, wherein the landlord may end the lease without penalty. 

Give advance notice. The sooner a landlord learns that a tenant plans to vacate early, the better. Landlords might consider early termination if they're given one or two month's notice. Notifying a landlord days or a week before moving is the wrong way to go about breaking a lease.

Wait until the landlord interviews a new tenant. Some landlords are okay with broken leases -- as long as they don't lose any money. Work with the landlord and stay in the house or apartment until they find a new renter.

Leave and lose the security deposit. If staying in the unit another month isn't an option, ask to vacate early in lieu of losing the security deposit. Some deposits equal one month's rent, wherein landlords are able to financially support the house or apartment until they find a new tenant.

Keep the rental and sublet. If the leasing agreement permits subletting, tenants can vacate a rental early and find someone to take over the lease. The original tenant remains responsible for the home or apartment, however, he creates a contract that makes the new tenant responsible for the rent payments for a specified time period. The original tenant collects monthly payments from the new tenant and then forwards this payment to the landlord. This is a hassle-free way to move out of a rental early without breaking a lease.