Switching jobs is a big life change. Add in a move to a job in another city or state, and that means even more stress—especially if you’re a renter with a signed lease. Unfortunately, no laws exist that allow you to automatically break your lease when you have to move for a job (with the exception of servicemembers). Instead, you should expect to negotiate with your new employer for a relocation package. If that's not an option, you'll need to consider subletting or paying a lease break fee yourself.
What is a relocation package?
A relocation package is a set of benefits that employers might offer if you have to move to take a job at their company. The packages vary wildly from business to business, but you can reasonably expect a base level of compensation that includes:
- The cost of making a trip to your new city to find your new place
- Coverage for the cost of breaking a lease
- Travel expenses
- Temporary housing if needed
- Mover’s fees
- Full packing and unpacking costs
- Storage unit rental for a period of time
- Job search assistance for your partner
Some companies offer this all in one lump sum, some use a third-party company to manage it, and others allow you to invoice them—it really depends on what you and your new employer work out as far as the relocation package benefits and structure.
What’s the best way to ask for a relocation package?
Just like with a salary, this will be a negotiation. In fact, it would be wise to ask about it before you accept the offer, especially if relocation assistance is important to you. Start by asking, “What relocation packages does the company offer?” The worst thing they can tell you is they offer nothing.
If they’re willing to cover your costs, consider exactly what you think you’ll need help with—and that doesn’t just include expenses. It could include help finding childcare or a good school for older kids, loans to help bridge the gap during the move, car registration costs, or even help with finding a place to live overall. Lay out everything you’re hoping for in writing (if you aren’t on board with the offered package), and let them get back to you with negotiations.
What about a “transfer clause” in my lease?
If you’re considering moving for a job, you may have heard about something called a “tenant transfer clause.” This is a lease provision that's generally reserved for business and military transfers—meaning your current job is relocating you to another state, or you have to move due to a military assignment. The clause will outline what needs to happen for you to break your lease, specifying how much notice you must give your landlord and any fees you might have to pay.
There’s also a chance your lease includes a clause about early termination that mentions the process your landlord wants you to follow if you have to move out early. These provisions generally mention how much notice you should give and how much you should expect to pay—similar to the transfer clause, but not specifically geared towards relocation. Neither of these clauses are legally required, meaning there's a good chance you'll just need to check with your landlord personally to figure out what the process is for ending a lease early.
When should I tell my landlord I’m moving?
As soon as possible. One benefit of moving for a job is that you’ll have some amount of advance notice. The earlier you let your landlord know, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to start advertising your unit now and potentially find a renter to move in immediately after you leave—making it less likely they'll charge you a hefty termination fee.
What if my employer doesn’t offer coverage for breaking a lease?
If your new job doesn’t include a relocation package—or the package they offer doesn’t involve paying the lease break fee—you’re in the same boat as anyone else trying to end their lease early. You have a few different options:
- Subletting: Depending on state laws and your lease, you may be able to bring in someone to replace you as a tenant until your lease is up. You’ll still be responsible for the rent payments if your subletter defaults, however.
- Transferring your lease to someone else: Similar to subletting, someone else moves into your apartment. But transferring (or "assigning") a lease to someone else means your relationship with the landlord ends. You will no longer have responsibility for the rent payments. Typically, the income and credit requirements for assignees are stricter than for subletters.
- Paying an early termination fee: This can be expensive, but it’s exactly as it sounds—you pay a fee (usually equal to one or more months’ rent) to be formally released from your lease agreement.
We've covered the pros and cons of each option for getting out of your lease in case your employer doesn't offer a relocation package and you're having trouble choosing your next step.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.