Backing out of a signed lease is not an easy option in most cases. The binding clauses of a signed lease contract do not favor the tenants as such either.
Let us discuss some options for tenants to get out of a signed lease contract without getting into legal troubles.
Can You Terminate a Lease Agreement as a Tenant?
Once you become a tenant by signing a lease contract, you cannot back out of the contract without a legal justification.
Unfortunately, there are not too many legal clauses that allow a tenant to cancel a lease right after signing it. However, you are not totally out of luck as a tenant as you have some options.
If your rental agreement includes a clause of lease termination under certain conditions, that’s your best bet. Otherwise, you’ll have to take a cautious approach that would also include taking your landlord into confidence.
Remember, you cannot just pull out of a lease contract just by citing a lame excuse such as: “I couldn’t sleep last night due to a loud neighborhood”.
How Long after Signing a Lease Can you Back Out?
If you haven’t moved into your new rented house/apartment, you have a few options to cancel the lease even after you have signed it.
Most lease agreements include a cooling-off period that allows tenants to terminate the lease contract within a few days.
In most jurisdictions, the cooling-off period is around 5-7 days only. During this period, tenants can back out of the signed period without incurring a penalty.
However, this clause is included in agreements with certain conditions. For instance, if the landlord or the real estate agency offered the contract through direct marketing efforts to the tenant.
Most rental agreements do not offer a revocation clause once it is signed by both parties. However, tenants can serve a legal notice period to cancel the lease agreement legally.
The notice period can be from 20 days to one month as included in the rental agreement. In most jurisdictions, a clause for the notice period by either party is included with mutual consent.
If your lease contract includes a cooling-off period or a notice period, you can use these two options without incurring a penalty or legal action from the landlord.
Without a Notice Period
Your major option would be to talk to your landlord and reach mutual consent if your lease agreement does not include a notice period or cooling-off clause.
Tenants can back out of a lease in certain situations without being penalized by the landlord. You can also take a few routes to terminate a lease without being sued.
We’ll discuss your options in more detail below.
When Can You Terminate a Lease as a Tenant without a Penalty?
A lease agreement is a binding contract meaning you cannot back out of it without legal reasons. However, certain situations permit tenants to break the lease contract without incurring a penalty.
You visited a property and approved it after inspection. Later, you came to know that your landlord is not the lawful owner of the property.
In other words, if you find out at any stage during your lease contract that the rented property is illegal, you can break out of your agreement immediately.
Furthermore, tenants can legally sue landlords for offering illegal properties on rentals. In such cases, tenants can be entitled to get back the lease payments they made during their occupancy.
Permitted in Agreement
If you are in luck, your landlord may allow you to cancel the lease agreement legally without any fuss with a notice period.
Landlords offer such flexible lease terms to lure in tenants. They also can charge a higher rental amount against such flexible options offered to tenants.
Either way, if your lease agreement permits, you can cancel it without paying a penalty.
Due to Health and Safety Concerns
The landlord is legally bound to offer a property in a habitable condition. The rented property must adhere to the local community and municipality guidelines for health and safety standards.
If the property is not in a habitable condition and you have concerns about the safety standards of the building, you can break the lease contract.
A landlord may argue that you have signed the property after inspection. However, certain safety standards cannot be viewed thoroughly with a single visit. Thus, you can use this clause to your benefit.
Harassment or Domestic Violence
If you have been through an unfortunate incident of harassment or domestic violence, you can move out of the place for safety reasons.
Many jurisdictions allow tenants to terminate a rental lease if they are victims of domestic violence. However, the incident must have occurred after signing the lease agreement or in the recent past.
The landlord would also want proof of the incident such as the police report.
Another option for you to terminate a lease right after signing is if you have been called for military duty and you need to relocate.
Military personnel can terminate lease contracts for relocation purposes. This personnel is legally protected against such termination clauses.
Using any of these options would require a notice period anyway. Usually, tenants need to serve a 30-day notice to the landlord even when they have a legal justification for lease contract termination.
How to Back Out of a Lease Without Being Sued?
Suppose your lease contract does not protect you against the termination clause. Your lease agreement is for a long period or you simply do not want to continue it for personal reasons.
Then, you’ll have to take a different approach and choose one of these options wisely.
Talk to Your Landlord
Unlike the common notion, open and honest dialogue with the landlord is the most effective option to get out of a lease contract.
If you have a change of mind, you have seen a better offer after signing the current agreement, or you have to relocate due to work reasons, be honest with the landlord.
Taking your landlord into full confidence can help you negotiate the terms of canceling the lease.
Offer a Little Cash
You can take the initial negotiations with your landlord a little further by offering some cash as compensation.
For example, you can agree to pay for one or two rentals so that the landlord can be compensated for the lost time to find a new tenant.
The legal option of paying cash is to pay for all the remaining months. In your case, it will be to pay for the full lease contract as you have just signed it.
Thus, negotiating with the landlord for a little cash is your best option.
Forfeit Your Security Deposit
Similar to offering cash compensation, you can offer a forfeit of your security deposit with the landlord.
Effectively, both these options are the same but with different psychological effects on your landlord.
Help the Landlord in Finding a new Tenant
Finally, you can offer your landlord help to find a replacement tenant as compensation. Logically, it is the right type of compensation that any landlord will seek if a tenant is terminating a lease contract.
In short, negotiating with the landlord directly can help you find a better solution to get out of a signed lease contract in most cases.