Breaking a lease before it ends is a scary thing to think about. When signing a lease, most people don’t anticipate breaking a lease. Life happens, however, and sometimes the unexpected happens too. You might find yourself in a situation that requires you to consider breaking your lease. Most tenants don’t understand the process and might worry about the consequences of breaking a lease. At Henderson, we are a resource for landlords and tenants. Let’s dive in and discuss.

What does breaking a lease in Colorado look like?

There can be several causes that require breaking a lease in Colorado. Sometimes this might be due to continuous clause violations. For example, if a tenant repeatedly breaks U+2 or has a pet under a “no pets” agreement. 

Breaking a lease simply means you are leaving before your lease expires without intent to pay the rent owed for the remainder of that period. This is a breach of lease agreement. The landlord and/or property management company can take legal action against the tenant(s).

When breaking a lease in Colorado is allowed

Before getting into the consequences of breaking a lease, it’s important to know when breaking a lease in Colorado is legal. 

Active Military Duty — No matter the state, if you’re a member of the military and duty requires you to move, you can legally break your lease. Whether going to another country or just reassignment to a different base, the Service Members Civil Relief Act protects you from legal action for breaking a lease.

Domestic Violence — If you’re a victim of domestic violence, breaking a lease in Colorado is legal. Victims of domestic violence are legally protected to move before the lease is over as long as the violence has been reported to police.

Unsafe Living Conditions — If there’s a breach in local or state health codes, the tenant has a right to break the lease. An unsafe living environment is considered a “constructive eviction.” If tenants feel that conditions are unsafe/unlivable, they should look into the proper procedure to legally leave before the lease is up. 

The Landlord Violates the Contract — If the landlord breaks the lease agreement in a major way, tenants can break the lease. This applies to the landlord raising rent before the end of the lease, or making any other major change. 

The Landlord Violates your Privacy — Just because you don’t own the property doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to privacy. “Constructive eviction” also applies to your landlord repeatedly violating your privacy. This includes changing locks, removing doors, and repeatedly entering the home without notice. 

The consequences of breaking a lease

Aside from the exceptions above, there are consequences for breaking your lease. For example, breaking a lease in Colorado allows the landlord to sue for lost income (i.e., rent). A lease is a legal contract. Signing a lease acknowledges that you’re able and willing to pay the rent due for the entirety of the lease agreement. Even if you leave before the end of the lease, you are legally responsible for the rent. If you stop paying rent and break the lease, the landlord may successfully sue you for the amount owed. 

If you give your landlord notice of early eviction, there’s a chance there will be a fee to break the lease. Landlords will sometimes write this into the lease, so read the lease carefully if considering breaking a lease in Colorado. If your lease includes said clause—and you leave without notice—there is a very high chance one of the consequences of breaking a lease will include legal action. Be responsible and save yourself the costs of court, missing rent, and the extra fee. 

Another consequence of breaking a lease is a reduced credit score. In the United States, credit scores represent your financial dependability. This number is your gateway and obstacle to so many things in life. Your credit score impacts getting loans, buying a car, and applications for your next rented space. Any debt—like unpaid rent or fines from small claims court—can hurt your credit score and make it near-impossible to get new rental agreements. In short, the consequences of breaking a lease can make being able to rent again difficult for a long time.

What to do instead of breaking a lease

There are options other than breaking a lease. First, see if your current lease states whether subletting or assigning your lease is an option. Subletting is when you add someone new to the lease. In this case it would be to take your spot. That way, rent is off your shoulders, someone else has a place to live, and the landlord still receives income for the property. 

It’s important to note that the common downside to subletting is that your name is still on the lease, even though you don’t live there. If something goes wrong with the subletter, the responsibility falls on your shoulders. Some landlords and property management companies don’t allow subletting, so double-check your lease. If it isn’t stated, contact your landlord or property management company to see if they allow subletting. Remember: communication is key. 

Similar to subletting, assigning your lease is also an option. Assigning a lease is when a tenant transfers their lease to a new tenant. Assigning a lease is different from subletting because you take your name off the lease entirely. It also can take longer because the landlord may want to interview the new tenant so they’re comfortable with the arrangement. This option is typically easier when you have roommates, because the landlord will already know the person taking your place on the lease. 

There’s also the option to buy out your lease. Check your lease to see if there’s a provision— or fee—that you can pay to buy out your lease. If your lease does not include such a measure, see if you can come to an agreement with your landlord for a buyout. There’s a chance the landlord has another tenant to take over the space. If this is the case, your buyout amount could be low. Be prepared, however, for your landlord to ask for the remaining value of your lease agreement.

Don’t face the consequences of breaking a lease if you don’t have to. Breaking a lease in Colorado should be your last option. Talk to your landlord and discuss solutions. If you’ve exhausted all other options and breaking your lease is the only choice, make sure you know what you’re facing. Know the consequences of breaking a lease so there are no surprises.