Do I have legal options to break a lease?

I signed a lease for an apartment but I have since decided I want to live
elsewhere. The lessor refuses to break my lease unless I personally find
someone to take my place. Do I have any legal options in this case? I’d like to
break the lease.

Asked on June 2, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You cannot legally break or terminate a lease unless:
1) The lease itself contains some term or provision allowing you to terminate it, and you comply with all its requirements or conditions.
2) The landlord him/herself violates his/her obligations in a material, or important way, such as by--
a) Not leasing you the space you rented (e.g. "bait and switch" on the unit; or the unit does not meet the description of the unit you agreed to rent in some significant way);
b) The space is not safely inhabitable (e.g. no heat; mold; outside door to the uniits doesn't lock and so is not secure; no hot water; large holes in windows or leaks; etc.) and does fix the problems within a reasonable time after you provide written notice;
c) The landlord does not allow you the "quiet enjoyment" of your space--such as by entering repeatedly without permission or for a property reason, on notice.
Othewise, if there is no early termination clause in the lease and the landlord honors all his/her obligations, you are lockd into the lease, and if you break it early, the landlord can sue you for the rent you'd owe under it.

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