Breaking Your Lease During the Pandemic

You decide to relocate to another town because your job is now done remotely. Or you’ve just bought a house. Or you’ve just been laid off. There are plenty of great reasons you are now looking into breaking your lease. However, none of these good excuses are necessarily legally valid. Even in the time of Covid-19, reasons related to the pandemic are not necessarily a legal basis for breaking your lease; the same laws are in effect. You still have to pay your rent until your lease agreement is up. That said, there are ways to get out of your lease as we discuss in this article.

California Laws on Breaking Your Lease

Under California law, there are only a few circumstances where tenants are able to break the lease without penalty. These include the following:

  • You’re a member of the military going to active duty
  • You’re a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault
  • Your landlord has harassed you or has violated your privacy
  • Your landlord won’t make necessary repairs and the rental has become uninhabitable

If you don’t fall under any of these justifiable grounds, then you can look at the lease for specific language that might support terminating the lease.

Lease Termination Clauses

Read your lease again to see if there is any clause that mentions termination. Some leases have a provision that allows you to terminate early for a fee. The fee can vary, but the law restricts the landlord from charging more than an amount equal to their actual costs related to your early move-out.

The actual costs are limited to:

  • The remaining rent left on the lease, until the landlord can re-rent the property
  • Any costs associated with re-renting the property
  • Any difference in the monthly rent between the original renter and the new renter for the rest of the lease term, if the landlord had to reduce the price to re-rent

Your Options When There are No Legal Grounds to Terminate the Lease

If there are no legal grounds that apply to your situation,

  • You would still be obligated to pay your rent for the rest of your lease term. However, your landlord does have an obligation to mitigate their damages. That means taking reasonable steps to find a new tenant. Normally this wouldn’t be particularly hard but during the pandemic vacancy rates have risen dramatically.
  • You could try to negotiate with your landlord to relieve you of your obligation to pay rent until the end of your lease term. Given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, they may be open to terminating your lease without a fee or reducing the amount you would have to pay.
  • If the landlord does agree to change any terms of the lease, then you must be sure to get them in writing to ensure that the terms are enforceable in case the landlord tries to back out of an agreement.
  • Ask your landlord if it’s possible to sublet or transfer your lease to a substitute tenant. Your lease is also instructive on this option.

 Interested in Breaking Your Lease? Contact an Attorney

If you want to explore your options about breaking your lease, it’s a good idea to get legal help before you do anything, especially if your lease is complex. You can talk to an experienced tenant’s rights attorneys at Wolford Wayne who can advise you in making the best choices for your situation. Contact us here at Wolford Wayne. We’re available to help you right away.