Moving Out or Breaking Your Lease
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
What are my obligations before moving out?
- 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 on a weekly basis. If you pay rent weekly, then you must give 7 days’ notice of moving.
- If you want to get your security deposit back, you will have to leave your rental in the same condition it was when you rented it, normal wear and tear excepted.
If you have a written rental agreement that hasn’t yet expired, 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 landlord notice of the necessary repairs.
- If there is a problem affecting health and safety, you must give the landlord a notice that specifies the problem and states that you will end the agreement in 30 days if the landlord does not fix the problem within 14 days of the notice.
- If the landlord failed to correct the problem, you can legally terminate your rental agreement at the end of the 30 days.If the landlord failed to correct the problem, you can legally terminate your rental agreement at the end of the 30 days.
If the landlord has not broken the lease in any way and you don’t have a legally sufficient reason to terminate the lease, you cannot legitimately terminate the lease agreement. If you go ahead and move out before the lease ends, you may be responsible for all the future rent that remains due under your lease.
- So, for example, if you move out at the end of the third month in a 12-month lease, the landlord could ask a court to make you pay for the remaining 9 months of the lease.
- The landlord is obligated to try to rent the place to someone else, after you leave. But if the new tenant pays a lower amount for rent than you did, or if the landlord incurs added expenses in re-renting the place, you could be held responsible for those expenses. Those expenses include lost rent for the time that no one was living there, cost of re-renting, court costs (if any), etc. You may lose your security deposit too if you move out before the end of your lease.
Can I find a new tenant to take my place in the lease agreement?
- If you want to move out early, talk to your landlord to find out whether your landlord wants you to try and find a new tenant to move into your rental unit.
- If you find someone, it’s a good idea to persuade your landlord to let you out of your lease entirely and just do a new lease with the new tenant you found. It’s best to avoid subleasing your rental to someone else, because you will still be obligated under the lease.
- Keep in mind that if you want to sublease your rental to someone else, the landlord must consent in writing to the new person taking over your lease. If the landlord does not agree to the subleased tenant, then that person will have no right to live in the rental unit and you’ll still be obligated under the lease.
For more information, you can contact one of the following organizations:
- The Montana Legal Services HelpLine. The HelpLine assists Montanans living in poverty. The HelpLine number is 1-800-666-6899. The HelpLine hours are 7:30am - 6:00 pm Mondays-Fridays. You can also submit an application online at http://www.mtlsa.org/get-legal-help/apply-legal-services/
- State of Montana Law Library. The Law Library provides help finding legal information. Visit the Law Library Web site at http://www.lawlibrary.mt.gov.
- Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) provides free help finding an attorney. Call the LRIS at 1-406-449-6577 or go to http://www.montanabar.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=255.