One attractive aspect of renting vs. owning a home is the lack of a long-term commitment. While it may seem that renters can pick up and go at the drop of the hat, there are still usually agreements in place. You may not be able to sneak away from a lease in the middle of the night without consequences, but there are steps you can take to minimize the penalty of leaving your rental agreement early. You'll also want to be aware of any potential impact on your credit.
1. Know your rights and your lease
Before you get started on the process, it's a good idea to look over your lease and see what exactly you have legal responsibility for if you leave the rental earlier than planned. You also might want to get familiar with the tenant laws in your state and city. If your landlord hasn't kept up his or her end of the bargain, you might be able to leave without incurring any issues. In fact, there may be clauses in the contract for your specific situation. Once you know exactly where you stand on paper, you are equipped to talk with your landlord and (hopefully) negotiate a deal.
An eviction and any subsequent judgments a landlord can get against you for unpaid rent can have serious credit consequences. If you've broken a lease and were sued by your landlord, it will appear on your credit reports. You can get free annual credit reports from each of the major credit-reporting agencies to see if your credit has been affected by breaking a lease. Also, you can get two of your credit scores every month at Credit.com to see where you stand.
2. Communicate with your landlord
Usually it's a good idea not to treat this like a secret -- keeping your landlord in the loop can benefit both of you. They may not be happy you are packing up early, but you can explain your situation and work together to make the best of it. The more notice you give, the more time they have to try to replace you and the longer you have to persuade them not to charge you any fees.
3. Look for a replacement tenant
Landlords charge penalties for breaking rental agreements because it interrupts their income and means more work for them. Advertising properties, checking credit scores, and completing paperwork all take time and money. Instead of paying the rent yourself while the apartment stays vacant, it can be a good idea to scope out a replacement tenant on your own -- whether this person will take over the remainder of your lease or sign a new one.
4. Be flexible and proactive
Since you are the one breaking an agreement, it can be a good idea to take responsibility and be active in resolving the situation. By offering up solutions or just making it easy for your landlord to rent out the place again (like being accommodating with showings), you can put yourself in a stronger position.