Is there any way to get out of a lease? Ed, New York Dear Mr. Ed, It is often very difficult if not impossible to get out of a lease (and sometimes even dying won’t accomplish that for you, although we suspect that was not the idea you had anyway). The reason is that the lease is a contract between you and your landlord for a defined period of time (the term). You benefit from that because the landlord cannot come to you during the term and tell you that you need to move, so you know that the roof over your head will be there as long as you pay rent and follow the rules. The landlord benefits from that because it guarantees an income stream (your rental payments) during the term, and that income goes to pay a mortgage, keep the lights on, keep the grass mowed, and keep things in repair. So generally, there are only three ways to “get out of a lease.” The first is to have reasons actually stated in the lease itself, such as “Tenant has the right upon 30 days notice to terminate this lease in the event of a job transfer or the purchase of a home.” If that type of language is there, it means that both parties agreed to certain exit strategies. Another way to “get out of a lease” is to declare a “constructive eviction” which means that the landlord has failed so miserably to meet his duties (no heat at all in the winter or a rat infestation, for example, that continues for an unreasonable period of time, such that no reasonable person would be able to continue to live in the apartment). And those who are active military do have some federal law protections when they receive orders (but that is a topic for another day). Bottom line is that many life events (including death) – job transfer, marriage, divorce, the need to care for an elder parent, do not provide an excuse not to live up to the term of the lease contract. c

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