The Common Law

Bad idea to break my lease?

I want to break the lease on my apartment so I can move in with a friend who isn't going to charge me rent. My landlord says I still have to pay the remaining five months' rent. Is there any way to break the lease and avoid paying rent?

Without a legal excuse for breaking the lease, your landlord can hold you responsible for all the remaining rental payments. However, if you do break the lease and move out, your landlord has a duty to "mitigate damages." This means that your landlord must attempt to find someone else to rent your apartment. Assuming your landlord can find someone, you will still be responsible for any rent owed during the period after you vacated the apartment before the new tenant moved in and for any other reasonable expenses incurred by the landlord while trying to relet the apartment. Try to give the landlord as much notice as possible that you intend to break the lease because that will give her more time to find another tenant and hopefully save you money. You can also try to find a potential tenant yourself, but this person must also be acceptable to your landlord.

Another option may be to try to negotiate a deal with your landlord rather than wait for a new tenant to turn up. For example, you could try to offer one or two months' rent and/or your security deposit to be released from your lease. If you reach an agreement, be sure to put it in writing and have your landlord sign it.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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