4 ways to break a lease

lease“Can I break my lease?” was the first question posed by a Facebook friend. We created an opportunity for people to suggest topics they would like more information about. If you need to get out of your lease, Washington State law has four loopholes for renters with leases. If none of these fit your situation, look for a way to minimize your financial loss at the end of this post.

The options are pretty stringent.

You may break your lease:

  1. If you enter active uniformed federal service after you sign the lease. This federal law protects you if you enter the Armed Forces, commissioned corps of NOAA, or of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard. It also applies if you are in service and receive orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy with a military unit for a period of not less than 90 days.
  2. If your house or apartment is unlivable. The law covers such major problems as a lack of water or heat in the winter. Using this remedy is cumbersome and time consuming. As a result, avoid going through the whole process, if possible. Consider consulting an attorney or a free legal clinic.
  3. If you are a victim of domestic violence or stalking. You must report the crime. But once you do, the process is much easier than other options and the crime victims unit of the police department or prosecutor’s office will help you.
  4. If your landlord harasses you or violates your privacy. Strict laws govern when and how your landlord may enter your dwelling. They must give two days notice, unless showing the dwelling to potential renters.  In that case, they must give one day notice. Fair housing law prohibits sexual harassment by your landlord. Be sure to make notes of dates and what is said and done. Then report them to the Washington State Human Rights Commission.  Physical or threatening sexual harassment should be reported to the police.

Landlords must re-rent

Most of the ways to break a lease involve a lot of time and trouble. And there are plenty of great reasons that may make moving a good plan that aren’t covered by the laws. You may change jobs or get a raise and find your dream house. You may get married or or add to your family. The easiest way out is to get your place rented to someone else. You remain on the hook for the rent until the time your place is re-rented or the lease ends.

Your landlord must make reasonable effort to re-rent your place. That’s the law. Once that happens, your lease obligation ends. Give your landlord a hand for even faster relief. Post the availability of your place on facebook and other social media. Spread the word at work, school and church.

Helpful references