Breaking Your Lease
In addition to the stress created by an eviction, it creates additional financial pressures due to the extra costs associated with the process. It will also be difficult to find a new place to live once the eviction is reported on your credit report. By breaking the lease and moving on your own timetable, you will be able to secure your new apartment with much less difficulty.
What can you do about the penalty owed to the landlord? The first thing to do is to read the lease very carefully and determine if you will incur a penalty. If either party (tenant or landlord) can give written notice to terminate the lease, then all you must do is provide such notice to your landlord. Usually at least 30 days written notice is required by either party. Once the proper notice has been given, you are free to move without any additional penalties. If you have an informal, month-to-month lease, then state and local laws govern, and you should seek a tenants organization or governmental agency in your community for information on how to terminate the lease.
But what if there is no right to terminate the lease before the term expires? You may then look for someone who wants to take over your apartment. They may be able to sublease from you in which case you would still be liable for payments to the landlord, or they may even be able to assume your responsibility completely. You then would no longer have any liability to your current landlord. You should look very closely at your current lease to see if one of these options is available to you.
You may also try negotiating with the landlord. Let the landlord know of your financial situation and ask for a reduction in rent. If the landlord wont lower the rent permanently, ask for a few months of lower payments. Lowering your rent for a few months may be less expensive for the landlord than trying to find a new tenant and paying for the cost of your eviction. The landlord may even be willing to forgive back rent for your agreement to move. If such an arrangement is made, be sure to get it in writing.
You should carefully consider the financial costs associated with breaking your lease and moving prior to being evicted. In many states the maximum the landlord may recover is set by statute. The landlord has a responsibility to try to rent your apartment, but if he is unsuccessful you could be liable for the number of months remaining unpaid on your lease.
Or if the landlord rents for less than your rent, you could be responsible for the difference. The only way the landlord can collect is to sue you in court and obtain a judgment against you. This judgment will be an unsecured judgment and it may be difficult for the landlord to collect. It will, however, probably be reflected on your credit report. Unsecured judgments may be discharged in bankruptcy. If the landlord doesnt sue you, then your loss would be your security deposit and first or last months rent if you paid this as a pre-rental condition. It is important to remember that, in the long run, the losses associated with breaking a lease can be much less than trying to hang on to an apartment that you cant really afford.
If you choose to break your lease, you will have some financial loss. However, careful planning on your part can help you keep the loss to a minimum.
There are several things, however, to be remembered. First of all, the best strategy should be to find a safe, decent place for you and your family to live, and to do this on your own terms rather than waiting for the sheriff to arrive and forcefully remove you. Again for this reason, it is extremely important that you understand the timeline for eviction in the state where you live. You should secure your new apartment, if possible, before the eviction process becomes public record. Once the process is recorded, it may be extremely difficult to find a new landlord willing to rent to you and your family.
If you do decide to break your lease, here are some other considerations:
Notice to Quit
If you do not abide by the conditions of the Notice to Quit and you are unable to negotiate further with the landlord, the landlord will probably proceed to sue you in court for eviction. In most states this is called an unlawful detainer action, forcible entry, or ejectment action. All of these are forms of eviction. Because these are legal proceedings, they all begin with your being served a summons and complaint notice that you are being sued for eviction. Always read the notice carefully because in some states the time between service of summons and the court hearing is very short. It can be as little as five days.
You should also answer the complaint in writing within the time specified in the notice. If there is any reason why you believe you should not be evicted you must attend the hearing and give your side of the story. Also you should attend the hearing even if you have no defenses just to be sure that the amount of back rent you owe is stated correctly and to learn exactly what will happen and when. If you fail to appear, your landlord will win a judgment by default.
It is very important to remember that unless you answer the complaint on time if required by state law and attend the court hearing, you will probably lose all defenses that you might have to your eviction. Many people are evicted because they failed to read the complaint and summons and failed to meet the time conditions set forth in these documents. Most importantly remember it is always advisable to attend your court hearing. Otherwise the landlord will win a judgment by default.
Defenses to Eviction
Remember that these are just a few of the defenses to eviction that may be valid. It is always a good idea to contact a tenantís group in your city or county for further information on possible additional defenses to eviction, which might be available in your jurisdiction. Remember that attendance at the eviction hearing is usually mandatory in order to inform the court of your defense.
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