What are my options for trying to leave a rental unit with no termination clause in the contract?

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What are my options for trying to leave a rental unit with no termination clause in the contract?

I have a roommate who is no longer willing to pay rent and has since moved out. I am trying to find a replacement roommate, but if that doesn’t happen, I am willing to relocate. The landlord wants the full rent as due by the contract. Do I have any options? What happens if this goes to court? I am a college student too with no money to my name, what will they be able to take?

Asked on June 26, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You have no right to terminate the lease early, unless--

1) The lease itself gives you  that right (e.g. allows you to terminate on some notice)

2) The premises becomes uninhabitable (unsafe; or legally uninhabitable, such as the city orders that the landlord may not legally rent at that building)

Other than the above, by signing the lease, you (and anyone else on the lease) is legally obligated to pay the full rent for the full term. If that is not paid, the landlord may sue you for the remaining balance (e.g. if you move out 5 months early, for 5 months of rent). If the landlord sues you and wins--which he almost certainly would, from what you write--he will have a judgment against you that he may to enforce in various ways for several years (e.g., he can wait until you are employed and then seek to garnish wages).

Your roommate, if he or she signed the lease also, is also liable. The landlord could elect to sue either one or both of you. If you are sued, you could sue your former roommate for his or her contribution.

If the lease does not prevent you from assigning or subletting it, one option you have is to look for someone to take it over from you or sublease from you. Even if you have to take something of a loss  (e.g. rent it for less than you are paying) to get someone to take it, this would let you minimize your losses.

Note that if you don't pay rent and move out or are evicted, the landlord could also take unpaid rent out of your security deposit.


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