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How to Break a Lease with No Penalty Fees in Massachusetts

Breaking a lease usually means paying between one and two months of rent as a penalty. Try these tips to reduce—or eliminate—your penalty fee.

If you want to break a lease in Massachusetts without paying a penalty fee, you'll need to study up state laws and double-check your lease. But negotiating with your landlord can be tough, especially if you rent from a property management company. You should also be prepared to find a qualified new tenant who can sublet your place until your lease is up.

1. Make sure this is the best option for you

A lease break is when your landlord terminates your lease completely and signs a new lease with a new renter. You will vacate the apartment and will not be held responsible for any terms of the lease, including future rent payments.

Consider subletting your unit. Subletting does not require breaking your lease, and is typically a less complicated and cheaper option. In Massachusetts, you can sublet as long as you get your landlord's approval.

If you still believe that breaking your lease is your best option, move forward with the below steps.

2. Get familiar with your rights and your landlord's rights

Like many states, Massachusetts law requires landlords to mitigate their damages caused by lost rent. This means that if you are able to find a suitable, equally qualified replacement tenant for your unit, your landlord is legally obligated to accept them, and cannot hold you responsible for the rent payments if they refuse them unreasonably.

Unlike other states, Massachusetts case law specifies that your lease may include a clause holding you responsible for paying a landlord to cover other losses associated with breaking the lease. Examples include cleaning or repainting the unit to prepare it for the next tenant. Read your lease to see if this is addressed in it. You can also legally be charged a lease break fee.

3. Look for loopholes in your lease

Read your lease carefully to see if it mentions any situation where you may have the right to terminate your lease early. Federal law protects those who are starting military duty from lease break penalties, and Massachusetts law allows victims of certain kinds of violence to terminate their leases without penalty. According to your lease, you might be allowed to leave if you can prove that it is because of a family emergency, death, or even a sudden job loss or relocation.

If you are able to prove that your apartment is not habitable or that your landlord breached your lease agreement, you may have another way out. In this case, you would be able to start a constructive eviction case.

4. Negotiate your breakage fee

If none of the above situations apply to you, try to gather some arguments for why your landlord should let you out of your lease early. Perhaps the property has increased in value since your lease started. If you have a good relationship with your landlord, they may let you break the lease without a fee or with a small fee. The more notice you can provide, the more likely they are to be understanding.

Negotiating can be challenging. Assigning your lease to someone else or subletting is usually the best way to get out of your lease without losing any money.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.