How to Legally Sublet an Apartment in New Jersey

When you signed your current lease, you more than likely had every intention of fulfilling that lease, whether it was for 6 months, a year, 2 years, or more. However, as we all know, life is sometimes messy and unpredictable. If life throws you a curve ball you weren’t ready for, (and is anyone ever really prepared for a curve ball?) you may find yourself wanting or needing to break your lease.

Reasons NJ tenants break leases

Your life may have shifted in a good way or surprised you with some unwelcome roadblocks, like:

  • A new job – Perhaps you received a surprise job offer you can’t turn down, but it’s across the country.
  • A job transfer – You may be told that your job location will be moving and unless you acquiesce, you’ll quickly be unemployed.
  • Divorce – Never planned for but all-too-common: if you signed the lease together and then split up, one of you has to move out.
  • Marriage – You’ll potentially need more space or need to relocate.
  • Job loss – Regardless of the reason, finding yourself without an income may mean you can’t afford your rent.
  • Health problems – Your 6th floor walk-up sounded charming when you signed the paperwork (“The stairs will keep me in shape!”). That outlook can quickly change with the diagnosis of a chronic illness or an injury that has created limitations on your mobility.
  • Family issues – (Example): When your 70 year old mother falls and breaks her hip, she may ask you to move in with her until (and if) she regains her mobility.
  • Military duty

What to do if you need to break your New Jersey lease

When and if you find yourself in any of the above or other extenuating circumstances, you’ll need to become extremely familiar with all of the terms of your lease. While you may not have read the terms as closely as you should’ve when you signed, now is the time to learn exactly what your lease states regarding your rights to move out early.

Many leases include a list of acceptable reasons for breaking your lease. If your reason falls under that list – you’ve got it made! However, if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the fine print of your lease documents, all hope is not lost.

If I move out early will I have to pay the remainder of my rent?

Lucky for you, landlords are required to at lease make an attempt to find a new tenant under New Jersey law (Sommer v. Kridel, 378 A.2d 767 (N.J. 1977)). This is true even if you break the lease for an unlawful reason. Landlords are legally held responsible to make an effort to find a new tenant if you have to move out before your lease ends.

To help things along, you can attempt to find someone to take your place as a tenant under your lease. Your landlord doesn’t have to accept your proffered tenant, but is likely to do so as long as they have decent credit and can provide solid references. Any landlord would much rather “sublet” your rental if you have to cut out early than lose thousands of dollars while the apartment sits empty.

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