Prairie State Legal Services
How to Get Out of Your Lease
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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