Moving Out or Breaking Your Lease

Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) LSC Funded


What are my obligations before moving out?

  1. If you have a typical month-to-month tenancy, you need to give proper notice before moving out. Proper notice is usually 30 days, unless you pay your rent week-to-week before moving out. You will have additional obligations to get your security deposit back, if there is one.
  2. If you have a lease agreement, you will need a legally sufficient reason to terminate that agreement before the end of the lease. If the landlord has failed to properly maintain the premises, you may have a sufficient reason to end a lease early, provided you have given the correct notice.
    • If there is a problem affecting health and safety and the landlord's duties to maintain the premises, you must give the landlord notice, specifying the problem, and indicating that you intend to end the agreement in 30 days, if the problem is not fixed with the next 14 days.
    • If the landlord fails to correct the problem, the rental agreement terminates at the end of the 30 days.
  3. If the landlord has not broken the lease in any way, you cannot legitimately terminate the lease agreement. If you do it anyway and you choose to move out before the lease ends, you may be responsible for all the rent remaining due under the lease.
    • So, for example, if you move out at the end of the 3rd month in a 12 month lease, the landlord could ask a court to hold you responsible for the remaining 9 months of the lease.
    • The landlord is obligated to try to rerent the place, after you leave. That's called "mitigation of damages." But if there is a difference in the amount of rent, or if the landlord incurs additional expenses, you could still be held responsible for other expenses, such as lost rent, cost of rerenting, potential court costs, etc. You may lose your security deposit too.

Can I find a new tenant to take my place in the lease agreement?

  1. You may not sublease to another tenant without the landlord's written consent.
  2. If the landlord does not agree, the new person you find will have no right to live in the premises.
  3. Even if the landlord agrees, you may still be responsible if the tenant you found becomes a subtenant. If the new tenant breaks the lease later, the landlord can still hold you responsible. It would be better if the landlord let you out of the lease and rented to the new person, not using a sublease, but the landlord is not obligated to do that.

Revised 4/02

Call the MLSA HelpLine for legal assistance:
(800) 666-6899

Montana Legal Services Association
616 Helena Avenue, Suite 100
Helena, Montana 59601
(406) 442-9830
(800) 666-6124