Can I Transfer My Lease to a New Tenant?

Question

I need to break my lease: I have ten months left on my 13-month lease and I want to move to another town. I don't want to sublease to anyone because then I would have to worry about whether they will make the rent—if they don't, I think I’d be still be responsible for making the payments. Isn't there some arrangement where I can pass all financial responsibility to a new tenant and be free of the lease?

Answer

Under a typical lease assignment, you transfer all of your space to someone else for the entire remaining term of the lease, and the new tenant pays rent directly to the landlord. If the new tenant fails to pay rent or damages the rental, your landlord could look to you for compensation. So, although you might be able to assign your lease, you’d still be on the hook for any unpaid rent—unless you get your landlord to expressly relieve you of that responsibility.

Have a conversation with your landlord about allowing you to assign your lease to a new tenant. Your landlord is more likely to allow this arrangement if you have a highly qualified, financially-secure replacement tenant already in mind. Once your landlord has agreed to allow a full assignment, you'll need to secure what the law so often requires: a piece of paper. The one you're after is a Consent to Assignment of Lease.

This Consent need not contain any pseudo-legalese. It can be as informal as a note, but, at a minimum, it should identify the landlord, the current tenant (you) and the assignee. It should also include the address of the leased premises, the term of the lease you wish to assign, and a statement that your responsibilities to pay future rent and damages end, and that you give up your right to occupy the place. All parties to the agreement—the landlord, the assignee, and you—must sign the Consent.

All this would happen in an ideal world. But don't be surprised if your real life landlord refuses to put his or her name on the dotted line. Why? Your landlord likely doesn’t want to lose you as a guarantor of rent for the next ten months.

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