Imagine this: you’ve just found a beautiful home you want to buy in California, and it has everything you need. A pool, a spacious living room, a guest room—and it’s in a neighborhood that you love and that’s right near work.
The only problem? You’re currently renting an apartment, which means you’ll need to break your lease if you want to buy your home.
When it comes to breaking a lease in California, the process can be pretty complicated. The last thing you want is to have to lose a ton of money because you’re moving out. And you don’t want to have any legal issues, either.
It’s stressful, to have to review landlord-tenant laws and figure out what your options are.
That’s why we’ve put together this article. In it, you’ll learn all you need to about lease-breaking laws in California.
Finally, you can move on and move into your new apartment or home. Read on to learn more.
Think About Your Options
Because breaking a lease in California can be pretty complicated, you should first think about other routes you might want to take outside of breaking your lease. After all, if you break your lease early, you could end up paying pretty high fees.
Lease break fees are common in California, where your landlord isn’t usually required by law to let you leave when you want to.
Find a Subletter
One of the options that are often better than breaking your lease is to find a subletter. Especially if you live in a densely-populated city like LA, San Francisco, or San Diego, you’ll be able to find a subletter pretty quickly.
Even though it means a little more work on your end, you can benefit financially from subletting your apartment.
For one thing, you can have a subletter move in and stay until your lease ends. This will save you the cost of lease break fees. Additionally, you can always negotiate with your landlord to charge the subletter a little more.
This way, they’ll be more open to you subletting. You might be able to get some money out of it, too.
Transfer Your Lease
Transferring your lease is a little more complicated than subletting at first, but it’s easier later on because you can leave permanently. However, if the person you assign your lease to defaults, you might be responsible for making their payments.
Depending on what the contract you sign along with your landlord says, this might have to happen.
There are several steps involved in transferring your lease. First, you want to take a look at what local laws are, for example in LaJolla.
Possibly, if your landlord agrees to you transferring your lease, you won’t be responsible for rent if the assignee doesn’t pay.
If this is the case, then you’ll feel more comfortable transferring your lease.
Then, you can go onto the next step, which involves researching your landlord’s policies. These might include additional fees, a specific lease transfer process, or a rent increase.
Next, you’ll find your tenant, make sure they’re qualified, create an assignment agreement, and then send it to your landlord. Finally, you can execute the agreement.
Then, you’ll be ready to move into your new home, whether it’s in San Diego or elsewhere.
Making the Call
Making the choice between finding a subletter, transferring your lease, and breaking your lease can be a difficult decision. However, there’s a way to look at each of these options that might make this decision a little bit easier for you.
If you’re worried about money, the best way to go is subletting, since you won’t have to pay any additional fees and your rent will be covered.
However, if the risk is your concern, then you’re better off finding new tenants and transferring your lease to them. Because there’s a contract involved, you’ll be more legally protected.
But if you’re concerned about time and need to get out fast, then the best option is to break your lease. If this is the case for you, read on.
Legally Breaking Your Lease in California
In California, there are certain situations in which you can legally break your lease before it’s up without your landlord agreeing to it. According to federal and state law, you can do this in four different situations.
Active Military Duty
According to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), you can legally break your lease if you’re on active duty and are asked to be deployed. Note that, when this happens, the period of deployment has to be for at least 90 days.
Additionally, if it’s your first time entering active duty, you can also break your lease in this situation.
California has legal protections in place for you if you’ve asked your landlord to make a repair, they haven’t done it, and your home is now uninhabitable. There are several requirements for a home being inhabitable in California:
- Unbroken windows and doors
- Weather-protected and waterproofed exterior walls and roof
- A water supply with both cold and hot water
- A water supply that is linked to a sewage disposal system
- Gas facilities and plumbing working well
That’s not all. Additional requirements that should be in place in your home include:
- Electrical lighting and proper wiring
- No garbage or pests on the grounds or in the building
- An appropriate number of garbage cans
- Well-maintained railings, stairways, and floors
- Each unit gets a locking mail receptacle in “residential hotel” type buildings
If your home has any issues with any of these requirements, then you may be able to break your lease because your landlord hasn’t made a repair. However, keep in mind that your landlord has a “reasonable” amount of time to fix this issue.
Usually, this amount of time is 30 days. However, you might be able to make the case for this time being reduced for other types of needed repairs—for example, a front door that’s missing.
Unfortunately, domestic violence can often be the reason why someone has to get out of a lease fast. For this reason, the state of California has put laws in place to make it possible for you to get out of your lease legally in this situation.
You can get out of this situation if you or someone else living with you is a victim of domestic violence. Examples of domestic violence according to California law include:
- Sexual assault
- Abuse promises or threats
- The destruction of personal property
Additional situations that are considered domestic violence are the physical abuse of your family’s pet or pets and the perpetrator controlling your ability to leave and enter your home when you want to.
If this is a situation you’re experiencing, there are several steps you need to take to get out of your lease. First, you need documentation of the unfortunate domestic abuse you’re experiencing.
This documentation can be documentation provided by a qualified third party (for example, a psychologist), a police report, or a protective or restraining order.
Note that you have to get this documentation at least 180 days away from when you’ll be moving out.
Next, you have to let your landlord know you’re moving. This information has to be given in writing.
Finally, you can move out. You’ll only have to pay for two weeks of rent, after which you’ll no longer be responsible for your lease.
Your Landlord Has Harassed You or Violated Your Privacy
Finally, if your landlord has harassed you or violated your privacy, you have a legal reason to break your lease. Whether your landlord is going through your mail or comes into your home at unwanted times, you should be able to leave.
Go Through the Details of Your Lease
If you aren’t in any of the situations listed above, you still might be able to break your lease without having to pay hefty fees to your landlord. Depending on the details of your lease, there might be certain situations where you can leave.
Read through your lease carefully, looking for specifics about when you’re allowed to terminate your lease before it’s up.
Chances are, there’s a clause in there about relocation, sudden job loss, or family deaths, or family emergencies. In your lease, there might also be specifics about the process of ending your lease early.
In that case, there are some legal steps you can take. You might be surprised by how simple the process is. It might be as simple as paying an early termination fee.
The Legality of Early Termination Fees in the State of California
Keep in mind that, in California, there are limits to what your landlord can charge you for the early termination fee. The costs associated with the fee can only be related to several things. First of all, they can charge you the rent that remains on the lease.
Note, however, that this is only the case until a new tenant moves in. Once that happens, they can’t expect you to pay.
Additionally, they can charge you for the costs of finding a new tenant (this usually applies to advertising). Finally, they can charge you the difference in rent paid if they have to lower the rent amount to get a new tenant.
Negotiate Your Way Out of Your Lease
If there aren’t any clauses in your contract that make it easy for you to break your lease, then the last choice you have is to talk to your landlord. If you’re able to demonstrate that the situation you’re in is outside of your control, you’ll be more convincing.
It helps to provide evidence with this fact. For example, you could give your landlord a doctor’s note that demonstrates that your mother is very ill or a letter from an employer explaining that you’ve been asked to relocate.
This might make your landlord more likely to understand your situation and to allow you to move out early.
You should also think about how you can frame the situation so that your landlord will actually want you to leave. If you move out during a popular rental time, it could be easy for your landlord to find a replacement tenant.
Additionally, if you’re paying for a rent-controlled apartment, your landlord might be able to raise the rent when you move out.
Generally speaking, this type of negotiation works better with a private landlord than with a large rental company that has specific processes in place for getting out of your lease.
Help Out With Re-Renting
Because a large part of the lease fees you have to pay when you move out include the amount of rent you owe, you want to help out with re-renting as much as you can. First of all, giving your landlord notice makes it more likely a new tenant will move in after you move out.
Additionally, you can show your place to potential tenants or even find a new tenant to take your place after you break your lease.
Need More Information?b
Now that you’ve learned about how to break a lease in California, you might need additional information. Maybe you want to learn about what legal processes follow after you’ve broken your lease.
Or maybe you want to learn about how you can demonstrate that you’re in one of the situations that make it legally possible for you to break your lease.
Whatever information you need, we can help. At BestFitMovers, we know everything about the moving process in California. We also offer moving services. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us now.