Ending Your Lease and Moving Out

Authored By: Legal Services Alabama


Sometimes, you have to move before your lease has ended. When you do, you risk having your landlord sue you for rent for the whole lease term. This article tells you steps you can take to reduce your risk.

How can I end a lease?

  • If you have a 30-day lease, you can end it by giving the landlord 30 days notice that you are going to move.
  • You should put the notice in writing. Date it and sign it.
  • Be sure to keep a copy of the notice.

What happens if I move before the end of my lease?

  • You should look first to your lease to say what happens if you move early.
  • You almost always lose your security deposit.
  • You may owe rent for the rest of the lease term.
  • If your landlord rents to someone else after you leave, you may owe much less.

How can I try to avoid having to pay for the rest of the lease term?

  • You should see if your lease gives you a right to early termination. Some allow it when your job transfers you.
  • You have to be careful to give notice in the way that your lease requires.
  • Try to get your landlord to sign a paper releasing you from your lease. Sometimes, a landlord will do this if you make a relatively small cash payment.
  • Try to get someone to move in right away after you leave. If someone moves in and pays all the rent you would have had to pay, you should not owe any money. If someone moves in a few months after you move and makes full rent payments, you should only owe for the time the house or apartment was empty.
  • You can show that your landlord broke the lease and gave you good reason to move. The law is not always clear on when this will work, so don't break your lease unless things are so bad that you have no other choice.
  • Clean up the house and turn in your key when you move.

How might I show that my landlord broke the lease and gave me reason to move?

  • If your landlord fails to make repairs which he is required to make, you may be able to break the lease.
  • Give your landlord a written demand to make repairs that he is supposed to make under the lease or Alabama law. Give the landlord 14 days to make non-emergency repairs. Keep a copy of your letter. If the landlord doesn't make the repairs, turn your key in when you move. See Repairs in Rental Housing.
  • Take pictures that prove your landlord did not make the repairs your landlord was supposed to make. Keep the pictures.

Again, keep a copy of any notice about ending your lease. Be sure it is signed and dated.

If you move, remember to file a change of address notice with the Post Office.

Reviewed May 2010

AlabamaLegalHelp.org offers legal information, not legal advice. This website provides information on your rights and options. However, the site does not apply the law to your personal facts. For legal advice, you should call a lawyer. To apply for free legal services in Alabama, call the Legal Services Alabama office that is closest to where you live OR call toll-free 1-866-456-4995. You can also apply online HERE.

Last Review and Update: May 06, 2010
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