Breaking a Rental Lease: Renter’s Rights


Signing a rental lease means that you and your landlord have committed to following the terms laid out in the agreement for a specified amount of time. The typical length of a rental lease is one year, but leases can be formulated for many different lengths of time. They can range from a month-to-month lease to a five year rental lease agreement in special circumstances.

Rental leases provide both landlords and their tenants with some security during the rental time period. The property owner (landlord) has peace of mind that he’ll have a steady income for the duration of the lease. As the renter, your lease agreement spells out what is expected of you as a tenant. You’ll have some rules to follow, and your landlord will be expected to provide you with certain services throughout the lease period.

As helpful as lease agreements can be, they can be a hindrance if the renter needs to break the lease early. Sometimes, life events create a need to move suddenly. Some of these events include:

  • Job loss
  • Job relocation
  • Divorce
  • Getting married
  • Expanding family
  • Inheritance

Unfortunately, in most cases, if you break your lease for one of the above-mentioned reasons, you may be required to pay for the remainder of your rental term. It is always possible that you have stumbled upon a generous landlord though, so it never hurts to ask if s/he would consider letting you out of your lease. Be sure to explain your situation in full detail so your landlord truly understands that you need to break the lease, rather than simply wanting to break it.

What are my rights as a renter in New Jersey if I need to break my lease?

Just as your landlord cannot kick you out of your rental without significant reason(s), the lease is in place so that you can’t simply leave your landlord high and dry if the mood simply strikes you.

With that being said, however, you do have rights as a tenant in New Jersey that allow you to break a lease. If you have experienced any of the following, you may be able to exit your lease agreement early, without owing rent for the entire term of the lease:

  • Active military duty
  • Disabling illness
  • Domestic violence (experienced by you or your child)
  • Unsafe living conditions at the fault of your landlord
  • Harassment by your landlord

No matter what your reason(s) for breaking a lease early, it’s never a good idea to skip town with your fingers crossed tightly that your landlord will just find a new tenant and you’ll be off the hook.

Talk to your landlord directly about your need and reason for moving earlier than expected. Make sure you give your landlord sufficient notice so that s/he hopefully can find a replacement tenant. This will be a win/win for everyone involved. Be sure to put it in writing as well, and make your letter as nice and sincere as possible.

For more information about breaking a lease in NJ, or if you’re experiencing trouble getting out of a lease, call Veitengruber Law and we will consult with you for free. If you are legally within your rights to break your lease early, we can help ensure that you’ll be able to do just that.

Image credit: Brett Neilson