What Happens if I Break My Lease and Don’t Pay?

You’ll be amazed to know the number of people who want to break their lease agreements before time.

Approximately 33% of renters break their leases and move out before the lease duration ends.

The reason why a renter would break their lease could be anything, from having to relocate for work to incompatibility with the roommate or problems with the landlord.

However, the bad news here for you is that if you break your lease and don’t pay the dues, you’re subject to legal proceedings and penalties.

How Does a Lease Bind You?

A lease agreement is a legal agreement between the landlord and renter.

It is where the landlord agrees to allow a renter to occupy their property for a certain period (usually a year) against an agreed rent.

The lease binds the landlord and the renter. A landlord can’t ask the renter to leave before the lease duration, and the renter can’t break the lease before the agreed term ends either.

If, for any reason whatsoever, a renter breaks the lease and, worse, doesn’t pay, the landlord has a legal right to take the tenant to court.

The tenant will have to bear the legal consequences of breaking the lease and not paying. These are usually heavy monetary penalties.

Also read: Can Someone Live With You Without Being On The Lease

When Is a Lease Considered Broken?

A lease is often considered broken when a tenant moves out of the property and doesn’t intend to continue to pay the rent until the lease is active.

Other situations when a lease is considered broken include:

  • Tenant not paying the rent for a certain number of months
  • Tenant damaging the property seriously
  • The tenant moved out of the property without any notification to the landlord and without an intention to return
  • The landlord entered the property without the tenant’s permission while the lease is still active
  • The landlord is not maintaining the property well

Not all lease agreements are the same. A lease will be considered broken if you keep a pet on the property when the lease agreement clearly says you can’t keep a pet.

However, if the lease doesn’t mention keeping a pet, keeping a pet won’t break the lease.

In short, a lease is considered broken if the tenant or the landlord does anything that’s against what’s explicitly mentioned in the agreement.

What Happens When a Lease is Broken, and the Tenant Refuses to Pay?

When a tenant breaks the lease, the landlord has every right to ask for certain payments from the tenants.

The landlord may demand an early cancellation fee. They may even refuse to return your security deposit.

If the renter owes any rent, the landlord has every right to demand that the tenant clear all the dues before they move out.

However, sometimes, tenants may refuse to pay any dues or penalties. Iin this case, there can be severe consequences for the tenant.


The landlord can turn to the court to recover the loss they had to bear because the tenant broke the lease and refused to pay.

If the court accepts the request, you’ll have no other option but to clear the debt you owe to the landlord.

The court will pass a judgment against you and might even attach claims to your assets.

If you show reluctance to pay what you owe to the landlord, the court can even take wage garnishment measures against you.

To say the least, if you break the lease and refuse to pay, things won’t turn out pretty for you.

Negative Impact on Your Credit Score

If you’re planning to break the lease and don’t intend to pay the dues, we suggest you stop and reconsider.

Apart from legal consequences, breaking the lease can negatively impact your credit score. You may wonder what breaking a lease has got to do with credit score, but it’s a fact!

You can’t move out of a rental property overnight and never turn back or respond to the landlord. You might assume that the court won’t take any actions when they don’t know where you are.

Well, going off the grid might help you temporarily, but you’ll eventually have to answer for what you did. Your landlord will get new tenants, but what you did was against the law, and it’ll stay around.

Not only will it get you a bad reputation in front of the court, but it’ll also have a negative impact on your credit score.

When the court passes a judgment against you, the judgment will become a part of the public record. Your proprietor may not report you to the credit bureau.

But, when the collectors go after you, the credit bureau will get to know what you’re up to. The collector’s report about you not paying your debt will blot your credit report.

The default will stay on your credit report for 7 years. This means that if you ever go to the bank for financing, they would already know you’ve defaulted your landlord.

This will reduce your chances of securing any sort of personal or commercial financing. If you don’t want this to happen, you’ll have to clear the debt that you owe to your landlord immediately.

You Might Face Problems With Future Landlords

It’s a common practice for landlords to get in touch with past landlords you’ve been in lease agreements with to ensure you won’t present any problems for them.

If you’ve broken a lease and haven’t paid your dues, you can’t expect the old landlord to talk about you in good light to the new landlord.

No landlord would be willing to keep you as a renter, knowing your past. This would make finding a new home difficult.

And if you’re planning to secure a property loan in the future to buy your own house, your credit score will reflect your past. You might not be able to buy a new house either!

Breaking a less and not paying might seem like a convenient option right now when you’re out of the means to pay the rent or have to relocate right away.

But it’ll have serious consequences in the long run. Not only will it have a direct effect on your reputation, but it’ll also have serious financial consequences for you that will have an impact on your future.

Also read: Do Landlords Call Previous Landlords?

The Right Way to Break A Lease

Not everyone who breaks the lease di it out of habit or with bad intent. Sometimes, they really see no option other than breaking the lease and fleeing.

It could be the fact that you lost your job and don’t have the means to pay the rent, you’ve got problems with the neighbors or your room partner, or you’ve got to leave the city for an emergency.

Sometimes, tenants have pretty strong reasons to break the lease. But if the lease isn’t broken through the proper channel, it’ll have serious consequences for the tenant.

The good news is that if you break the lease the right way, you may not have to face serious consequences.

Let’s take you through the right way to break a lease and save yourself a lot of trouble in the future.

Go Through Your Lease Agreement

Lease agreements are extensive legal documents that not everyone studies thoroughly at the time of signing. Sometimes, the lease agreement can provide you with answers to your questions.

Most leases have an early termination clause. This clause explains what options you’ve got in case you’ve got to call off the lease before the rental duration ends.

In most cases, you’re good to go if you let go of your security deposit and pay an early termination fee.

Sometimes, a lease agreement might even let you go without any penalties if you can find a replacement tenant or complete your notice period.

Based on what options your lease agreement offers, you should try to opt for the best possible route so that things can end pleasantly for both you and the landlord.

Talk to Your Landlord

Sometimes, having an honest conversation with the landlord can really help.

If you wish to end the lease before time and your lease agreement doesn’t offer any options that might suit you, talking to your landlord might help.

Inform your landlord about your situation that has led you to want to break your lease. If you’re on good terms with your landlord and you’ve been a good tenant, the landlord might just let you go.

Not all landlords are evil villains who would drag you to court just because you’re breaking the lease.

If you talk openly and nicely and if you don’t owe a big amount of money to the landlord, the landlord might decide to end things on good terms with you.

Help Your Landlord Find a Replacement Tenant

It’s always the money that creates problems. If the landlord continues to receive the monthly rental payments, they wouldn’t care if you live at the property or are away.

Things get ugly when the landlord has to suffer from losses because you decide to break the lease and refuse to serve the notice period or pay the early termination fee.

The landlord will receive no rental payments for all the months the property stays vacant. Not every property is a catch; it can take several weeks to months for a property manager to find a new tenant.

This means the landlord has to suffer loss for these months the house is vacant.

If you wish to break the lease without completing the notice period, you can find a replacement tenant who would occupy the property for the lease duration you signed up for.

You can also opt for subletting, whereby someone else pays your rent on your behalf, but the landlord will hold you responsible for any unpaid dues since it’s your name on the lease agreement.

How to Break Lease Without Penalties?

Did you know there’s a possibility that you break a lease and get away without having to pay any penalties?

That’s true.

Below are some cases where you can break a lease without suffering any penalties.

Help Your Landlord Find a New Tenant

One way to break the lease without any penalties is finding your landlord a new tenant who’s willing to pay the rent according to the newer, higher rates.

When your landlord sees that they’ll be getting more money than what you were paying, they’ll see no point in demanding penalties from you.

Study the Law

Some laws allow the tenants to break the lease early without penalties. Under the Service Members Civil Relief Act, you can break a lease without penalties after showing official relocation orders.

You can also break the lease without any penalties if your landlord harasses you in any way like:

  • Barging into the house without permission
  • Not providing the facilities or amenities you were promised
  • Disrespecting your guests, changing the locks without your knowledge
  • Any sort of aggressive behavior with the tenant

You can also break the lease without penalties in the following situations:

  • The property doesn’t comply with the building code
  • You’re facing domestic violence at the property
  • The property is damaged due to a natural disaster
Also read: Can Apartment Landlords Do Random Inspections?

Closing Word

Breaking your lease and not paying when you don’t have any legally-acknowledged reasons will not end well for you.

It’s best to do your homework and try to end things in the most pleasant and legally-compliant way possible.

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