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Can I Break My Lease if My School Stays Closed Due to COVID-19?

Plans for the fall semester are still up the air for many colleges—but there aren't a lot of laws protecting off-campus renters.


When COVID-19 hit, suddenly college students across the country found themselves paying for an off-campus apartment they were no longer using. Many tried to break their leases, with mixed results.

Now, in an echo of that first wave, students are trying to figure out what to do if their university isn’t in-person for the fall 2020 semester, either.

Unfortunately, there are no laws anywhere in the U.S. that allow a college student to break their lease because their school is no longer in session. The rules are the same for these students as they are for anyone else trying to get out of a lease early—they must either negotiate a breakage fee with their landlord, sublet, assign, or rely on damage mitigation laws.

What if I haven’t signed a lease yet?

If you’re a student contemplating signing a lease for fall 2020, see if your new landlord would be willing to include a clause or addendum that allows you to back out if your university ends up going remote. The University of Illinois has even prepared a sample addendum that you can use. But keep in mind that may be a dealbreaker for some landlords—it’s obviously preferable for them if you’re locked in for the full year, regardless of what happens on campus.

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


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