My fiance and I found a great condo that was only 7 minutes away from our apartment, bigger, and cheaper. We both agreed it was financially responsible to move, but there was one issue: we’d be breaking our lease. Our apartment was $1,174 a month with 2 months free. In order to get 2 months free, we had to sign a contract for 13 months. Our lease was not over until August of 2011, but we fell in love with the new place and the better price tag. So we decided breaking the lease was the best thing to do.

Since this was our first experience, we had no idea where to begin, but quickly found our way. We followed a few steps to get to our new place.

  1. Go over your rental agreement. We had a copy of our rental agreement that we signed when we moved into the apartment. It outlined our terms to moving in as well as moving out. If we were on a month to month lease, all we would have owed was our last month’s rent. Because we were breaking a lease, our contract explained that we owed one month’s rent plus any “concessions” that we were given when we moved in. Those concessions were the 2 months of free rent. That meant that we owed over $3,000 just to leave early! Had we known that before, we probably wouldn’t have signed such an extensive lease.
  2. Do your research. We, of course, were not happy about having to come out of pocket with that much money, so we did some research online to see what the laws were regarding breaking your lease. We checked tenant rights and laws for California to see if we indeed had to come out of pocket that much money. We found that the only way around this was if there was an issue that pretty much forced you to have to move. This included non-liveable conditions that you have addressed with the property manager. This was not the case for us. Lo and behold, I was laid off days later, making the push for a move to a less expensive place more immediate.
  3. Give 30 days notice. We went to the leasing office and asked if we could give our 30 days notice. The sales associate supplied us with some paper work requesting when we would be moving out and why. Our best reasoning was that we could no longer afford to live there (which was true). When we asked him for an estimate on how much we would owe the day we moved out, he gave us an outrageous number that almost reached $4,000. As you can imagine, this stressed us out. We maintained communications with the office, asking to speak to the property manager. She understood our problem, and was willing to work with us on the price. She allowed us to pay just 1 month’s rent at the time of vacating the premises. What a relief!
  4. Thorough cleaning. We actually moved the majority of our things before the day we had to be out of the apartment. We wanted to get as much of our security deposit back as possible, so when we got all of our belongings out, we proceeded to give the apartment a deep cleaning. We took care of the kitchen, the bathroom, and got rid of as many carpet spots as we could. There were some things, however, that we could not fix. 2 of our kitchen cabinets fell off the hinges during our stay, and we were unable to put them back in. The holes that the screws were in were too large (looked as if the previous tenants possibly had the same issue) so we decided to leave those alone and let them deduct the necessary charges for it. Out of the $500 deposit we gave, we received $230 back.
  5. Return belongings of property. When we moved in, we received 2 sets of keys for our apartment, 2 keys for our mailbox, a key to the pool and workout room, 2 gate openers, and 2 parking passes. We had to collect all of these things and return them the day we moved out.

It was a lot of work to move from one place to another, even though we just moved one city over, but breaking a lease is definitely not cheap. We learned that things can change at any given moment, and in order to save some money in the long run, we prefer (and now have) a month to month lease. We also learned to read over your leasing agreement carefully as to know what you’re responsible for ahead of time. If you’re thinking of breaking your lease, be sure to weigh all of your options before making any decisions.