Exiting Your Lease

Good for you if you are moving out of your apartment or rental home at the end of your lease term! Unfortunately, many people find that they need to move out before their lease is due and often face paying a cash penalty. Common penalties range from paying one month’s rent to being responsible for the remainder of the lease term. In most cases though, it is illegal for a landlord to collect multiple rent on the same rental unit, which may limit your overall cash exposure.

Most states have laws to govern or restrict what landlords can do with respect to lease cancellation, but most of what you need to know is in your lease. Follow the steps below and try to negotiate your best deal.

  • Review your lease: dig out your lease and review the terms of cancellation.
  • Truth-in-lending: obtain a copy of your rights from the State, often called a Truth-in-Lending document. Your landlord may have also provided a copy of this to you when moving in.
  • Give early warning: speak to your landlord and let him or her know of your future intent to leave. Get advice from them with respect to cancellation fees and how best to avoid them. 
  • Give official notice: be sure to give official notice in writing to your landlord, as required in your lease. In general, notice periods vary between 30 and 90 days.
  • Negotiate as needed: landlords are human too. Get on his or her good side and do what you can to negotiate a reduction in any penalty that you might have.
  • Sub-lease: if the exit fees are so high that you have no good option to vacate, consider sub-leasing the property to another tenant if your lease allows it.
  • Security deposits: the deposit that you put on your rental when you moved in is ‘held hostage’ until your landlord verifies that you are returning the rental back to them in satisfactory condition. Do all that you can to return the home in the same condition as when you moved in.
  • Moving out: be sure to leave your home ‘broom-clean’ upon moving out and insist that your landlord or managing agent walk through the property with you to verify it’s condition. Always take pictures after all of your belongings are out to prove the condition of your property, if the need arises.

The 3 Phases of a Successful Move


1] Properly research the new destination before you decide to move. Understand your financial and social impact to you, and download the free assessment form. Stressed Out by Moving


2] Learn about each step of the move process to get your move started in an organized way.


3] Manage transition and stress from the very beginning. Each family member needs to be fully engaged throughout the entire move to properly assimilate into their new environment.

Move Acronyms

AMSA  American Moving & Storage Association

CWT   Cost per one hundred pounds

DOT    Department of Transportation

PBO    Packed By Owner

SIT     Storage In Transit


Real Estate Acronyms

BPO   Broker Price Opinion

CMA  Comparative Market Analysis

FDR   Formal Dining Room

MLS   Multiple Listing Service

TI      Tenant Improvement


Relocation Acronyms

CRP   Certified Relocation Professional

COLA Cost of Living Allowance

FMV   Fair Market Value

MVA   Market Value Analysis

PCS   Personal Change of Station (military)



Also see Definitions and Terms