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Rental Lease Breaking in Massachusetts Explained

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Are you a tenant who wants to get out of an apartment or house lease agreement before the expiration date? Perhaps a military or job transfer, unexpected medical bills or loss of job necessitate that you move. Breaking a lease is possible. However, except in certain circumstances, lease breaking is not without penalties.

All leases are not created equal. There is no Massachusetts state lease that all landlord's and property manager's use. All leases are written differently, although there are certain terms that all Massachusetts leases must contain. Review your lease and state landlord-tenant law to better understand your legal options.

Many leases, especially for homes near military bases, have military transfer terms that allow an early lease breaking without penalties with written proof of transfer. Some leases have a nonmilitary early lease termination clause that allows a lease to be broken provided the tenant is in compliance with all lease terms. This usually requires special notice and an upfront fee to the landlord or property manager. Check the lease for such a clause and abide by its specifications.

When no such lease termination clause exists, a tenant should send a certified letter with return receipt (obtained at your local post office) to the landlord or assigns stating the reason for wanting to break the lease and detailing an expected move-out date, along with any pertinent documentation. It is preferable for the tenant to work with the landlord rather than to just move out, which will most likely prompt legal action against the tenant. As the lease is a binding contract, the tenant is still liable for the remainder of the lease or until the property is re-rented in addition to any lease-break fees and damages. That means the tenant must continue to pay rent until the lease expires or the property is rented to another tenant. It is in the tenant's best interests to find a replacement tenant who has been approved by the landlord or property management company to rent their unit upon move out.

Breaking a lease is still subject to the same terms as moving out at lease expiration. Any nonrefundable deposit will be taken out of your security deposit, along with cleaning costs and damages, depending on what is specified in the lease terms. So, while the tenant can initiate an early lease termination, it may be more costly than it's worth.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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