A while ago I decided that I wanted to move out of MA way before my lease was set to end. One of the many things I had to do to get this all in order was to get out of my lease somehow. Before I started the process, I read countless articles and personal stories about the legal implications of breaking a lease as well as detailed individual experiences. I knew there was no real cut-and-dry was of going about it, but reading about it helped me build courage to actually do it. I'm going to detail how I went about breaking my lease, in case there is someone out there wanting to do the same thing and afraid (like I was).
First, I talked to my landlord before I made any plans. Every landlord deals with this differently. You could have one that says "Sure, just tell me when you want to move out and I'll take care of it" or you could have one that says "No. Way. You signed a paper stating that you will be good to live in this unit and pay me this much for this amount of time, and that's what I expect you to do." The last thing I wanted was a new obligation to start paying rent to someone in PA while still being liable for rent for my apartment in MA. I wanted to talk to my landlord before I made *any* plans, so I could see his reaction to this idea, and also keep myself in a place where I could pull this off lose the least amount of money. I called my landlord and told him that I wanted to move out of the apartment before my lease is up. I told him I was moving out of the state and what would we need to do to make that happen? I also told him that I had no solid plans to move yet. He didn't really take it well, but he said that if I found a new tenant to sign a new lease, then I could go. Fair enough.
After I talked to my landlord, I sat on the decision for one month. I thought about it. Did I really want to move (like, REALLY really)? Did I really want to risk losing a good amount of money to move *now* when I could just wait a few more months until my lease ends and be totally off the hook? Waiting a while also helped me to get over the initial nervousness and stress it took me to build up the courage to admit to myself that this is what I really wanted, and to actually make the call to my landlord.
After about a month (we're talking early February at this point), I decided that I wanted my move-out date to be May 1st. The first thing I did was I listed the apartment with the realtor who I rented the apartment through. We'll call him Fratty McDouchebag. My landlord recommended this next step, so I did it. My preferred to have the new tenant pass a credit and background check, which is understandable. He also said he would consider a new tenant who I knew well and trusted, and could provide references. I didn't know anyone, so it looked like the realtor road was the one for me to take. I understood that a realtor would charge the landlord a fee for finding a new tenant. I knew that I would be expected to foot that bill, since I was the one breaking the rules here. I told my landlord that I would gladly pay the finder's fee. If you break a lease, you are going to lose money. The question becomes: how much?
Fratty was pretty confident that he would find someone for the apartment quickly. I remember him being kind of flaky when I worked with him previously so I was skeptical. I left the apartment listed only with his office for about three weeks. I called Fratty once a week to follow up. I wanted to make sure he didn't forget about me, and I also wanted to be in the loop if a new tenant was found. The third time I called, I found out that Fratty left his current office and was now working a higher end firm in downtown Boston specializing in luxury rentals. Great! My bare-bones Brighton apartment was no longer relevant to him even though he still pretended to care. Well, after that wasted three weeks, I didn't want to work with Fratty McDouchebag anymore.
So, I contacted my landlord again and asked him if he was ok with my listing the apartment with multiple realtors. He said that was no problem, but just to ask them to call him first before listed the apartment to make sure everyone was was on the right page. I called 3 other offices and listed the apartment with them as well. I gave them all of the info, they looped back with my landlord, keys were dropped off, and I was back to the waiting game. Luckily, the new offices I choose were way more interested, and my apartment was being shown only a couple days after it was listed! This made me feel much better about things. We are at the beginning of April now.
One tip I would give to people in a similar situation - if a realtor is not responsive or interested, don't waste your time, find someone else. There are plenty of agents out there who will work harder for you, because they want your business.
Keep in mind that up to this point, I still did not make any solid plans to move. I was getting anxious to make plans to move since time was running out, so I had also asked my landlord if we could come to some kind of financial agreement or buyout so I could leave for May 1st regardless of the situation. He did NOT like that idea, so I continued to say put and see what happens. My first priority was unloading the financial burden of my Boston apartment. I would only make solid plans after a new lease was signed, even if there was a time crunch.
Only a couple of days later, one of the offices called me with a person who was very interested in the place, but would only take it for June 1st. I thought, well this is definitely better than nothing. I also knew that the apartment was scheduled to be shown by one of the other offices the next day. I told him that I *could* do June 1st, but that there was other interest and I wanted to see what happens in the next week or so. That was a big gamble on my part, because that guy could have easily found a different apartment for June 1st during that week's time. The apartment was shown the next day and that person wanted the apartment for June 1st also. Both of the offices talked to my landlord about their potential tenants.
One of the potential tenants said he would take the place May 15th if that was ok with me. I said "DO IT UP!" The application was processed and a new lease was signed shortly after. I was SO happy that this would be resolved and I could make plans to move, f'real.
When I moved into this apartment, I paid first month's rent and last month's rent. When the lease was signed, I had already paid for April, so my last month's rent would cover the half of May that I will still be here, and the 1/2 month's rent realtor fee. So, all in all, breaking my lease cost me 1/2 month's rent. It could have been much worse.
Throughout this whole process, I was kind of a nutcase. All of this back and forth with my landlord and the realtors as well as time going by like it does took it's toll on my nerves. I am not used to "doing things wrong" or not how I'm supposed to do them. I was never a rule-breaker by any means, and I always wanted to please others. I experienced a lot of guilt during all of this. I felt like I was seriously doing something wrong, or asking for something I didn't deserve. I was CONSTANTLY talking to my friends about this and asking for their advice. It was also nice to hear them act like this wasn't as "bad" a situation as I felt it was. Things like this can get emotional, so don't forget about your friends and how great being in their company can be.
Don't feel guilty about wanting to break your lease to change your personal situation. I still have to tell myself this. I paid the realtor fee that my landlord would have had to pay in September if I waited to move then. Also, my landlord took advantage of this situation and listed the apartment at a higher rent. So, he actually made more money off of this resolution than he would have if I choose to stay until September. I have to keep reminding myself of this. This is no reason for me to feel guilty.
Leases are meant to protect both the tenant and the landlord for a certain period of time. Both parties are under a certain amount of obligation. But, circumstances change, and sometimes the one year lease period does not fit in with other plans and changes in your life. I don't advise you to just walk out on your lease, but be honest and willing to respect and work with your landlord and try to come to a resolution that is ok with both of you.