Prairie State Legal Services

Renter's Handbook

How to Get Out of Your Lease

How to Get Out of Your Lease
Consent of the Landlord
Sublet, Assign and Transfer
Other Possibilities

How to Get Out of Your LeaseBack to Top

By law, you must pay rent for the full term of the lease whether or not you continue to live in the apartment. Know how long your lease runs. It may be a 6- or 12-month lease even though you pay rent every 30 days. If you do not pay rent as it comes due, then the landlord can sue you, collect the money owed her/him, and evict you.

There are generally only two ways to break your lease and end your duty to pay rent. One way is to get the landlord to agree to let you out. The other way is to find someone else to take over your lease. When someone else takes over your lease, it is called subletting, assigning or transferring your lease.

Consent of the LandlordBack to Top

The easiest way for you to get out of your lease is if your landlord agrees. However, your landlord does not have to agree to let you out of your lease. If you do get your landlord to agree to let you out of your lease, get it in writing that he or she agrees to terminate your lease. Otherwise, you could be faced with a lawsuit for non-payment of rent even though he or she told you it was okay.

The exact wording of an agreement by your landlord to let you out of your lease is important to make sure you are completely released of any and all claims against you which your landlord can make. Simply writing "void" on a lease or tearing up your copy isn't enough because your landlord could always produce a copy of the original, claiming that you ended the lease without her/his consent.

Sublet, Assign and TransferBack to Top

If your landlord refuses to let you out of your lease, he or she may be more likely to do so if you can offer her/him another person to take over your lease and agree to pay the rent and do any other things the lease requires. This is called subleasing, assigning or transferring. Although there are confusing distinctions between subleasing, assigning, or transferring a lease, for most purposes, these are the rules:

  • You will need your landlord's permission. Many leases state you cannot sublet, assign or transfer your lease without written permission from the landlord. If this is the case, get it in writing. Your landlord does not have to agree to sublet, assign or transfer your lease.
  • Whether it is called a sublease, assignment or transfer, get it in writing. Make sure the agreement is signed and dated by your landlord, yourself, and the new tenant. Be sure you keep a copy of it.
  • You are probably still responsible for the rent. Even though another person has agreed to take over your lease, he may agree to pay less rent than you did. If this is the case, make sure you are aware of it and that you pay the difference between what you originally agreed to pay and what the new tenant is paying.

    Even more important, you are probably still liable for the total rent during the term of your original lease if the new tenant does not pay. The landlord can sue either you or the new tenant, whichever the landlord chooses.

    Back to Top As a general rule, be cautious when you choose someone to take over your lease. Some basic tips are:

  • Check the lease to be sure you can sublet, assign or transfer your apartment and get permission, in writing, from your landlord if required. Remember, your landlord does not have to allow you to do this.
  • Try to get someone you know to take the apartment.
  • If you cannot find someone you know to take your apartment, ask your landlord if he or she knows of anyone who would be interested in taking the apartment.
  • If neither you nor your landlord knows of anyone, then put up notices around town in stores, laundromats, etc.
  • Put ads in local newspapers.

    When you do sublet, assign or transfer your apartment, make sure to get the agreement in writing when you move out. Be sure to follow the check-out procedures in the Move-In/Move-Out Checklist and Damage/Security Deposits sections of this handbook to make sure you will only be charged for damages done while you were living there. The new tenants would be wise to follow the Move-In/Move-Out procedures for themselves as well.

    Other PossibilitiesBack to Top

    There are certain times in which you may be able to break your lease without your landlord's consent. If the apartment does not meet with the state and local building codes, housing codes, health requirements, zoning ordinances, etc., a health or safety hazard may exist. In some such cases, the landlord may not legally rent the apartment. If such a situation exists, you should notify the appropriate officials; i.e., health department, code enforcement, etc. Do not move out because of hazardous conditions without first seeing an attorney. Just because there may be a housing code violation is not in itself grounds for breaking a lease. Inspectors are very overworked and do not appreciate being called in to inspect your apartment when your only motive is breaking the lease rather than health and safety.

    You may also have a case for moving out if you have tried to sublet, assign or transfer your apartment several times and the landlord has refused to rent to these new tenants for no apparent reason. In such a case, you should be sure to get the names, addresses and phone numbers of every person who was turned down. Again, see an attorney before you move.

    PSLS Back to Top

    Return to Renter's Handbook - Table of Contents

    Return to Prairie State Legal Services Home Page

    Email Prairie State Legal Services

    Prairie State Legal Services Copyright 2000. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
    Designed and Maintained by ComPortOne