Q: My friend and I have signed a lease with an apartment community, and we are to start renting there on Feb. 1. However, we now feel the landlord is so rude that we do not want to move in. Is there any way we can break the lease?
A: A lease is a contract that you sign agreeing to pay rent whether you live in the unit or not. In Minnesota, there are several legal reasons to terminate a lease early. A tenant may terminate early if a disability makes the tenant’s apartment or rental home unlivable due to their disability. Another legal reason is if the tenant joins the military after signing a lease, or signs a lease and then gets deployed or receives orders to move. A lease also may be terminated early in Minnesota if all the adult tenants on the lease die.
Additional reasons for terminating a lease early in Minnesota include domestic-abuse situations; if a judge orders termination based on a rent-escrow or tenant-remedies action, typically because repairs are needed; or because of constructive eviction, meaning that the rental home is destroyed, uninhabitable or unfit.
Since it doesn’t look like any of these circumstances apply to you and your friend, there is another way you may be allowed to terminate your lease, and that involves your lease containing a provision that allows for early termination by paying one or two months’ rent.
You should read over your lease, and look for this type of early-release provision. There is typically a fee involved, since the landlord has to advertise the place again, and it may take some time to get it rented.
If there is no “break-lease” provision included in your lease language, then you should contact your landlord and ask to be released from the lease, and let your landlord know that you are willing to pay some compensation. Most landlords won’t hold you to a lease unwillingly, since they don’t want unhappy tenants. However, if there is no provision that allows for early termination, and your landlord isn’t willing to accept compensation to terminate your lease early, you are then bound by the terms in your lease. Make sure you get any agreement to cancel the lease in writing, even if the writing is from you confirming your agreement, so there are no misunderstandings later on.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to email@example.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.