What You Should Know About Ending Your Lease

October 26, 2022

What happens if you need to move out of your rental unit earlier than expected? Though rental housing provides flexibility, there are many reasons you may need to terminate your lease, including a change in employment location, loss of income or other life event. While breaking a lease before the end of its term may be unavoidable, there are steps you can take to make the process easier on you and your landlord.

Person reviewing a document

Keep in mind that you will most likely be required to pay a termination fee if you decide to break your lease, and you may still be liable for some or all of the monthly rent payments due for the remainder of the term of the lease. As long as it is safe for you to do so, the best solution may be to stay in your unit through the end of your lease agreement when possible.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to breaking your lease, but the following tips can help ensure a more positive outcome.

  1. Understand the terms of your lease

    Rental agreements vary, so it is important that you read and understand the terms of your lease. Your lease should include the length of your lease term and detailed information about any procedures if you wish to end your lease early, including notice requirements and payment of certain fees. Once you have a better idea of your specific situation, you can make a more informed decision.

  2. Talk to your landlord

    Open communication is key. Once you are familiar with the requirements of your lease, you should contact your landlord or property manager. Depending on your reason for leaving, your landlord may be motivated to accommodate your request and work with you to find a solution that suits you both.

  3. Help find a new tenant

    Subject to your lease and your landlord’s agreement, a potential solution may be to help your landlord find a new tenant for your unit. Since some leases may require you to continue to pay monthly rent payments until a new tenant moves in, this solution can protect your landlord from financial losses and relieve you of the responsibility of making rent payments after you have moved out.

  4. Consider subletting

    If your lease allows for it, you may also consider subletting your unit. Finding someone to take over the remainder of your term may give you the ability to leave without breaking your lease or incurring financial penalties. Keep in mind that your name will still be on the lease, and you may be responsible for any damage to the property or other obligations, including rent payments, through the end of your lease term.

  5. Document everything

    In any scenario, the most important step is to get any agreements in writing. Documenting any agreements made between you and your landlord will help ensure that both parties hold up their end of the agreement. The best way to do this is to communicate by e-mail as much as possible — even if you have a conversation in person, follow-up with an email restating the main points.

It is important to note that landlord tenant laws vary by state, and in some cases by city or county, and you should consult an attorney if you need legal advice.

For more information about renting, visit My Home by Freddie Mac®.

Freddie Mac is working to address the affordable rental housing crisis by providing affordability, liquidity and stability to the multifamily housing finance market. Freddie Mac purchases loans from mortgage companies and other lenders for both single family homes and apartments. While Freddie Mac does not make loans directly to borrowers, more than 95% of the rental units we help finance through loan purchases are affordable to low- and moderate-income households.

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