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breaking a lease for remote work

Breaking a Lease During COVID-19: Remote Work and Relocation

As employers and employees continue managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on business operations, some employers have chosen to test remote, work-from-home experiences. More employers are offering extended options for their employees to continue working remotely until 2021, and some have even chosen to move permanently to distributed teams. 

Although you may have already signed a lease assuming your eventual return to an in-person work environment, you may now be thinking about trading in your city life for a more affordable, slower-paced, or just plain different lifestyle. With a new normal on the horizon for many employers and employees, we’ve answered some questions that you may have about transitioning out of a current lease to a location that is better suited for remote work.

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How do I break my lease?

Since your Lease Agreement is a contract, you want to make sure that breaking this agreement is done legally, so that you are not held liable by your landlord for breach of contract.

If you and your landlord have a good working relationship, you may want to propose a Lease Amendment to modify the terms of the lease rather than ending the lease altogether. Some modifications may include altering the lease term, removing penalties for early lease termination, or changing the monthly rent. 

Whether you are on a Month-to-Month Lease or a fixed-term agreement, it can be a good idea to document your decision to move with a Notice to Terminate Tenancy. While you may still be responsible for rent during the remainder of your lease term, this notice allows you to record your reasons for leaving. When sending the notice to your landlord, you’ll want to be mindful of any required notice period within your lease terms.

Whether you decide to use a force majeure clause to break your lease, or you simply want to get out of your original lease while protecting your legal rights, having an Agreement to Cancel between you and your landlord helps dissolve your landlord-tenant relationship.

What parts of the lease should I pay attention to?

Your lease agreement may carry a variety of provisions that you may want to consider when terminating early. You should check your lease agreement for any cancellation or termination terms which may provide some guidance on the process of breaking your lease. If your lease agreement does not contain clear cancellation or termination terms, it may include a force majeure clause which could excuse you from your lease obligations due to an “act of God.” This clause may not automatically excuse you from your lease obligations, so if you are unsure of your rights within the lease agreement, it is recommended that you consult an attorney.

Another item to check for in your lease is any agreed upon fee for cancelling the lease. While your landlord may be willing to waive the penalty fees, it can be helpful to calculate and compare the cost of maintaining your lease versus the cost of paying the penalties.

While typically uncommon, your lease may also have a sublease provision. If your lease allows you to sublet your unit, then making a Sublease Agreement with a subtenant may help you complete the terms of your lease. It is important to check your lease before making this kind of agreement. Depending on the state you live in, you may also be required to have written consent to sublease by your landlord, which can be best documented with a Consent to Sublease.

Need help breaking your lease?

It’s always a good idea to get legal advice as you decide to break a lease, especially if your lease terms are complex. A local landlord-tenant lawyer can help you determine how best to proceed. 

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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