Your apartment lease is a binding contract between you and your landlord, which means that breaking your lease is a breach of a contract. The need to get out of a lease may be entirely understandable. For example, you may need to move as a result of a job transfer, you may be getting married or divorced, or you may have decided to buy a house. In short, your apartment lease seemed like a good idea at the time, but now times have changed and now that lease is in the way!
Will There Be a Penalty?
Like any other contract, there may be a penalty for breaking it. Just because you pay rent by the month doesn’t mean that your obligation ends should you decide to move earlier than the lease expiration. There may be any number of penalties that might be applicable, like the cost of finding a new tenant. But the greatest source of pain is having to pay rent on your old, now empty apartment. Therefore, develop a strategy for reducing the pain.
The good news is that the landlord is obligated to mitigate damages. That means that landlords can’t just sit on their hands while your apartment sits vacant. The landlord has the duty to make ordinary efforts to rent the apartment. This fact alone may be enough to get you out of your lease with little or no out of pocket expense.
Talk to Your Landlord
Regardless of why you need to move, the first step is to talk to your landlord. That’s how you can find out the likelihood of your landlord being able to rent your apartment again under the duty to mitigate damages. Maybe the landlord has prospects waiting to get in, but no available apartments – a slam dunk.
But talk to your landlord. Sometimes, people are embarrassed about talking to the landlord, particularly if the need to move involves the loss of a job or the apartment becoming unaffordable. However, the chance are that your landlord has heard this before. The landlord would probably rather work things out with you amicably rather than have to go through an eviction down the road. So talk to your landlord.
What needs to come out of that conversation is a written notice from you about when you will be vacating. Only then can the landlord begin marketing your apartment. What you will also know now is the probability of the landlord renting your apartment.
You should understand that no matter what rosy picture your landlord paints, your obligation on your old apartment isn’t relieved until a new lease is signed with a new tenant, or until you get some sort of other written documentation from the landlord releasing you from your lease. That means two things: You’ll want to stay in touch with the landlord and you may need to act on your own to help rent your old apartment.
Acting on your own may be as simple as keeping your apartment neat and clean for prospective showings and making your apartment readily available to be shown. In Wisconsin, landlords have to give tenants 12 hours minimum notice before entering an apartment and tenants cannot waive this right! But that doesn’t mean that every showing has to wait until the next day.
Again, talk to your landlord. Establish a showing schedule in advance allowing your apartment to be shown at pre-established dates and times. There’s no reason that there has to be any limit to this. You could pre-schedule a showing time for every day of the week and even multiple times during any particular day. The more available your apartment is to be seen, the more likely it is to be rented.
Setting up pre-scheduled showing is just a start. You may need to grab the proverbial bull by the horns. What if your property is suffering from several vacancies already and the landlord has painted a bleak picture for renting your apartment? There are several remedies:
First, check with your landlord to see if they would allow a sublet. Even if they don’t, it would be hard to imagine that your landlord wouldn’t allow a perfectly good, qualified applicant to take your apartment, particularly if you find that applicant. And that’s what you need to be doing – essentially, renting your apartment yourself.
Renting out your apartment will be the topic of the next post, so be sure to check back!