If a couple signs a lease to a home and they break up before they move in, can the lease be broken?

UPDATED: Oct 12, 2011

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If a couple signs a lease to a home and they break up before they move in, can the lease be broken?

They advised the real estate agent handling that they needed to cancel or break the lease and he told them they couldn’t. The homeowner still occupies the home and the move in date is 2 weeks away.

Asked on October 12, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, the law--and the landlord--does not care about the break up. If the lease had a clause stating that the couple could cancel the lease under circumstances--including that they break up, for example; or at will, with proper notice--that would be one thing; that clause would be enforceable as per its language, and the couple could terminate the lease. However, otherwise, they signed a contract (since that's what a lease is: a contract) and are obligated to it. The ways to deal with this situation are:

1) find someone to take over the lease (to assign it to)

2) sublet the premises

3) One of the couple moves in, possibly with some assistance from the other (she or he pays part of home cost, but lease then a full share; this way, one gets to live there, and the other is let out of his or  her full liabiltiy; if they come to this agreement, they should put it into writing)

4) Negotiate with the landlord to let them out of the lease in exchange for some up-front payment (e.g. 3 months rent).

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