Signed a Lease but Changed My Mind – What Are My Options?

Did you sign a lease for a new unit but have since had a change of heart about actually moving in?

Maybe you found a better property at the same rate, or you got a job transfer letter, lost your job, or have a family emergency that you need to tend to.

Whatever the reason may be for you changing your mind, the question is if you can break a lease without moving in.

Can You Break A Lease Without Moving In?

It’s not uncommon for tenants to change their minds after they sign a lease. Many times, tenants find themselves in a situation they didn’t expect and can’t continue with the lease.

It could be because you lost the job that you were to pay the rent with, or you just got transferred to another state, or you’ve to take care of personal emergencies.

Whatever the reason is that has caused the change of mind about moving into the unit you just signed the lease for, you can’t just walk away!

After you’ve signed a lease, you and the landlord are legally bound to the agreement. You’ve legally agreed to pay the agreed rent for an agreed duration starting from an agreed date.

If you’ve had a change of heart and no longer want to move in, you’re still bound by law to follow the agreement.

This means that you’ll have to pay the rent for the lease duration or till the landlord finds a new tenant.

In simple terms, you really can’t break a lease after you’ve signed if you decide you don’t want to move into the rental unit you signed the lease for.

Also read: Can Someone Live with You Without Being on the Lease?

Is The Lease Effective Immediately?

One question that you may want an answer to is whether the lease becomes effective immediately.

Let’s say you signed a lease today, according to which you’ll move in on the 1st of the following month. You may assume that your lease will be effective from the 1st of the next month.

But that’s not the case. Your lease is effective from the moment you sign the contract. Your signing the lease is a commitment from your end that you’ll pay the decided rent for the lease duration.

This means that you’re bound to pay the rent throughout the lease duration even if you decide not to occupy the property unless the landlord finds another tenant.

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

What Are Your Options?

You might want to explore your options if you know there’s no way out of a signed lease and that the lease is effective immediately without any cool-off period.

One thing is given; walking away from a signed lease isn’t an option. You’re bound to the contract by law.

Below are some options that you can explore if you’ve had a change of mind about moving into the property you signed the lease for.

Continue Paying The Rent Till The Landlord Finds A New Tenant

You’re bound to pay the rent throughout the lease duration. It doesn’t matter whether your lease is for 6 months or 12 months; you’ll have to continue to pay the rent throughout this period.

If you don’t, your landlord can take you to court and pursue legal action against you for not paying the rent during the lease duration.

However, you can request your landlord to look for a new tenant for their property. You can even help them find a new tenant.

Once the new tenant signs the lease, your lease will automatically be null and void.

Now, how soon the landlord can find a new tenant for the property you signed the lease depends on your luck.

You’ll have to continue to pay the rent as long as the landlord doesn’t find a suitable tenant. It could be 1 month, 2 months, or 5 months.

Monetary Compensation

If you don’t want to pay the rent for a property that you don’t plan to occupy, you can look into the possibility of monetary compensation to the landlord.

Most lease agreements have a clause that states clearly what happens if the tenant wishes to break the lease before the lease period ends.

Most of the time, you can break the lease by paying a termination fee which is usually equivalent to several months’ rent.

Moreover, you won’t get your security deposit back if you break the lease before the lease period ends or before you move in.

So, the total money that you’ll have to pay to call it off is several months’ rent, a termination fee, and your security deposit.


Another option that you can look into if you’ve had a change of mind about moving into a rental after signing the lease is a sublease.

You can find another tenant who might be interested in the property and have them occupy the property and pay the rent on your behalf till the lease period ends.

But you’ve first got to ensure that your lease agreement permits subleasing.

In case it doesn’t, you can talk to your landlord and see if the lease can be amended to make it possible.

If the tenant you’ve subleased the property to fails to pay the rent on time, your landlord can hold you accountable. So it’s best to sublease the rental to someone you know and can trust.

Appeal To Your Landlord

If none of the options listed above suit you, you can try talking to your landlord. In many cases, landlords are empathetic towards the problems of their tenants.

Your landlord may understand your situation, especially if you’ve got a good reason to back out from the lease.

Don’t expect any politeness or empathy from your landlord if the only reason you wish to break the lease is you found a better property at the same rent. That’s just not fair to the landlord.

However, if it’s something serious that you can’t do much about, like losing your job, getting transferred, or having to leave the state to attend to a family emergency, you can try talking to the landlord.

Be humble and polite and try to make your landlord understand that you aren’t doing it happily, and were you given an option, you would have never asked them to let you out of the lease.

Providing the landlord with suitable proof to support your reason can also make your case with the landlord stronger and more compelling.

If you’re lucky, your landlord may not take any serious actions against you and call the lease off without any serious penalties.

Break The Lease

If your situation makes it impossible for you to occupy the property and your landlord isn’t being flexible, the only option you’ve got is to break the lease and bear the consequences.

The consequences include heavy monetary penalties, termination fees, or even a legal case. But since you see no other option, so be it.

Is It Possible To Break The Lease Without Facing Consequences?

If your reasons not to want to move into a property that you’ve signed a lease for are acknowledged as a ‘just cause’ by law, it’s possible to break the lease without facing any consequences.

You can call it off without having to pay any fines or penalties if:

  • The rental isn’t built according to the building code
  • The rental isn’t suitable for habitation
  • The landlord refuses or fails to fix any major issues with the rental
  • You’re on active military duty and have to break the lease for duty
  • The landlord violates your privacy or harasses you in any way

You’ll have to provide supportive proof to make your case stronger. In most cases, the court gives a ruling in favor of the tenant and declares the lease null and void.

Can Breaking the Lease Affect Your Credit Score?

If you decide to break the lease and refuse to pay the termination fee or the rent for the lease duration, the landlord can take you to court.

Just because you never occupied the apartment after signing the lease doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay the rent.

If you don’t pay the rent for the lease period or until the landlord finds a new tenant and the court gives a ruling in the landlord’s favor, all the money you owe to the landlord will be considered debt.

Any unpaid debt will have a direct (and a serious) impact on your credit score, making it hard for you to secure a loan in the future.

It may also create problems finding a new apartment because most landlords run a background check before closing a deal with new tenants.

Bottom Line

If you signed a lease and changed your mind about moving in for whatever reason, you can either continue to pay the rent throughout the lease duration or pay monetary compensation.

You can let the case go to court if nothing seems like a viable option to you.

If you’ve got a genuine reason for breaking the lease without even moving in, you can try to talk to your landlord and ask them for some slack in the name of good faith.

But to be precise, if you signed a lease and had a change of mind, you don’t have many options unless your reasons fall in the category of ‘just cause.’

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