Common Lease Loopholes to Keep in Mind When Breaking a Lease Agreement
If you’re thinking of breaking a lease agreement, then it’s important to know exactly what you’re up against.
A lease is a legal contract just like any other, and getting out of it early isn’t always as easy as you might think. That being said, there are some loopholes in the rules and regulations around leases that could give tenants an upper hand in this situation. To help you make sense of them, we’ve put together some information on lease loopholes and how they work, plus the potential consequences that you’ll want to keep in mind before you proceed with an early termination of your lease contract.
The Two Most Common Lease Loopholes
There are essentially two primary common lease loopholes that can be used towards a tenant’s advantage if they want to break a lease early: habituality and nuisance, and illegal provisions.
Habituality and nuisance loopholes refer to living standards that fall counter to what was promised in the lease agreement. All tenants have a reasonable expectation of a safe and habitable living environment, and all landlords are required to provide it. If a unit is plagued by unsafe, unsuitable, or unsanitary conditions — think rodent infestations, broken heating and cooling systems, or the presence of mold — then a tenant is not having their basic requirements met and may be able to break the lease without consequence. Likewise, major nuisances like disorderly neighbors could also serve as ground to stand on.
Illegal provisions, on the other hand, are lease terms that do not abide by state rental laws, and hold as grounds for breaking a lease early regardless of whether a tenant agreed to them or not. While it’s not always the case, often if there are provisions within the lease that are unenforceable under the law then the lease in totality is no longer held to be fully valid.
NC lease laws that are relevant here include caps on how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit and information they must provide on where the security deposit will be kept, as well as landlords’ responsibilities to take care of major repairs in the unit. If these laws aren’t abided by, tenants may be able to break a lease without any repercussions.
Consequences of Breaking a Lease
Of course, not all lease breaking situations are warranted or acceptable under the law. And in those cases, tenants can expect to face a number of potential consequences for backing out of their contract early.
Consequences may include:
Substantial fines. Among other things, a lease is agreement to pay a certain amount of money for a certain amount of time. As such, breaking a lease early usually comes with a fine, which may be equivalent to a month or two of rent or may even be the remainder of the rent that’s owed.
Credit score dings. If you owe your landlord money — whether that’s for unpaid rent or for unpaid fines related to breaking a lease — that information can go on to negatively affect your credit score.
Lawsuits. Remember, rentals are a type of business just like any other, and leases are legal contracts, so it is possible for a landlord to bring a tenant to small claims court for breaking a lease, though it’s rare.
Difficulty with future rentals. A good landlord-tenant relationship goes a long way, particularly when it comes to securing future apartments. If you break a lease early, it may follow you as you seek out new housing.
North Carolina rental laws don’t outline a perfect course of action for breaking a lease early, but there two things that are recommended you do if you want out:
- Look at your lease contract and see what it says about early termination, including under what circumstances it might be allowed and/or how to go about it.
- Talk to your landlord and explain your situation, since it’s possible they may be flexible, especially if you can secure a new tenant for the unit.
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