A lease is a legally binding agreement between a tenant and the landlord. If a tenant or landlord ends a fixed Georgia lease agreement before the end date without sufficient reason, they’re breaking a lease.
There are several valid reasons tenants choose to break a lease. Say you’re a student at Georgia State University and only want to stay in your apartment for the period of time the school is in session. Or, you need to move to take care of an elderly parent.
Whichever your reason, breaking a lease in GA should be done with proper care and planning. If you’re wondering how to break a rental lease in Georgia, here’s what you need to know.
Tenant Rights and Responsibilities When Signing a Rental Agreement in Georgia
A lease is a contractual agreement between you and your landlord. It obligates both you and your landlord for a specific period of time, typically a year. During this period, both parties cannot change the lease terms (unless the lease expressly allows it).
For instance, the landlord cannot force you to move out of the rental property before the lease term expiry. This is, however, assuming you haven’t violated any lease terms. Common violations include:
- Failing to pay the rent
- Having extended guests
- Repeatedly throwing large and noisy parties
Also, the landlord cannot raise the rent. Any changes to the lease must only be done once the existing term ends.
Similarly, you must also adhere to the lease terms of your Georgia rental property. Simply packing up and leaving the premises isn’t acceptable. In fact, it can land you in a lot of trouble – both financially and legally.
A lease obligates you to pay rent for the lease’s full term, whether or not you continue to live in the rental unit. There are, however, some exceptions to this blanket rule.
When It’s Legally Justified to Break a Lease in Georgia
There are instances where you may break a lease without facing any legal or financial consequences. In these instances, a notice will suffice. Here are five reasons a tenant can terminate their lease agreement early:
1. The rental unit is unsafe or violates Georgia Health or Safety Codes
- Performing repairs
- Ensuring the common area is clean and in good repair
- Making sure the property doesn’t lack running water
- Adhering to health and safety codes
- Providing proper trash receptacles
Failure by the landlord to provide these services means that he has not performed his responsibilities, and this also means that you would not have any further responsibility for the rent as the place may be unsafe.
2. You’re starting active military duty
Otherwise known as the SCRA, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers certain protections for active-duty military personnel. It specifically covers the following personnel:
- Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service
- Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Armed forces
- The activated National Guard
You will need to provide written notice of your intent. You may also need to provide your landlord with proof of your deployment or change of station orders.
3. Your landlord harasses you or violates your privacy rights
You may be considered “constructively evicted” if your landlord harasses you. It’s illegal for a landlord to change your locks in Georgia, turn off your utilities, or remove windows or doors.
You may also break the lease if the landlord violates your privacy rights. In Georgia, landlords must usually provide you with at least 24 hours’ notice before entering your rental unit.
Also, the landlord must enter your property only for legal reasons. Such reasons include making repairs, inspecting the unit, or showing the unit to prospective tenants. For reasons that are not legally allowed, you have the right in Georgia to break the lease agreement. In the meantime, you may also obtain a court order to compel the landlord to stop the behavior.
4. You are a victim of domestic violence
Currently, Georgia doesn’t have a state statute extending special protection to tenants who are domestic violence victims. If you are a domestic violence victim and want to move out, check with a battered women’s shelter or police.
When Breaking a Lease in Georgia Is Not Legally Justified
Personal reasons usually don’t justify breaking a lease in Georgia without some form of penalty.
Personal reasons renters may want to use to break a lease include:
- Purchased a home
- Relocating to a new city for a job or school
- Moving into a larger or smaller space
- Moving in with a partner
Landlord’s Duty to Find a New Tenant in Georgia
In most states, landlords must make reasonable efforts to find a replacement tenant. Unfortunately, landlords in Georgia aren’t compelled to do so. Therefore, if you are thinking of moving out before your lease is up, it’s advisable to try something out with your landlord.
Here’s What You Can Do:
Talk to your landlord
Landlords are human too. You may be able to work out an arrangement that both of you can live with. You could begin by asking your landlord about your options if there’re no provisions in the lease.
For instance, you can try negotiating a lease buyout. Or, you can offer to take the burden of finding a new tenant.
Look for an early termination clause
For the most part, your landlord will hold you to the lease terms. Check whether your lease has a provision for an early termination clause. Generally, you’ll be required to provide prior notice and pay an early termination fee if it does.
Check whether your lease allows for subletting
If the lease doesn’t make a provision for early lease termination in Georgia, ask if it’s okay to sublet. This allows the lease to stand while another tenant pays the original tenant’s rent. However, some leases don’t have such a provision.
If your lease doesn’t mention subletting, speak to your landlord about your options.
Typically, a landlord may not be too strict about who’s subletting so long as the original lease terms are respected. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to get the consent of the landlord before getting into another lease.
Also, note that subletting doesn’t free you from your obligations to the landlord.
You could offer the landlord a qualified replacement tenant
Ideally, you could offer your landlord a qualified replacement tenant with good references and good credit to sign a new lease. A suitable replacement tenant is a person who the landlord deems acceptable after completing the application process.
However, you must check to see whether your lease agreement allows it or not. Some lease agreements have a clause that forbids you from doing so.
Wait until your lease expires
If your landlord refuses to budge, the only option you may be left with is to wait until your lease expires. Alternatively, you could pay the total remaining rent due under the lease.
Breaking a lease in Georgia is a serious matter. Before you move out, understand your obligations under the lease. Don’t just move out and hope your landlord gets a replacement quickly and doesn’t charge you for the remaining time on y
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