Does Breaking Up Mean You Can Break Your Lease Professor Real Estate Suzanne Hollander

Does Breaking Up Mean You Can Break Your Lease?

A heartbroken student sobbed that his girlfriend broke up with him..before
I could ask if he was ok, he asked if that meant he could break his lease?

This question is important to everyone! The broader question is, if you enter into a legal obligation are you allowed to cancel it because of a personal issue.  The short answer is no, you can’t and a personal issue can seriously hurt your credit!

People forget that a lease is a legally binding contract, maybe because leases are so common.  Everyone who signs the lease is bound to keep the promises they make in the lease.  The student and his girlfriend signed the lease together as tenants and promised to pay the rent.  They also each contributed to the security deposit.

This lease was for a one year term for one year to rent an apartment. The tenants major obligation under the lease was to make the monthly payments. The landlord’s major obligation was to provide the tenants, the exclusive right to possesses the apartment during that time.

Across the country, state law regulates landlord-tenant relations.  Here in Florida, the Florida Statutes Section 83 does not allow  tenant or landlord to break a legal obligation for personal reasons.

This makes sense because the landlord and tenant are depending on the promises of each other.  The law upholds these promises and gives the landlord and tenants rights if the promises are broken.

Think about the tenants, they would have been pissed off if during the term of the lease, the landlord decided for personal reasons not to allow them to possesses the apartment (remember the tenants spent the time to find
the right apartment, had moving costs and changed their mailing address and had a legally binding contract with the landlord!)

Think about the Landlord, she would be super upset if the tenants say they want to move out and stop paying the rent for personal reasons
(remember she spent money advertising the apartment, paying a real estate commission and she still has to pay her mortgage even if she or her tenants have personal problems and she has a legally binding contract with the tenants.)

Normally, there is nothing in a lease that permits a tenant to break the lease because of a break-up.  Just to be sure, I asked the tenant to send me a copy of the lease.

This lease specifically addressed thesituation, it said “Resident shall not be released from this Lease on any grounds, including voluntary or involuntary school withdrawal or transfer, voluntary or involuntary business transfer, layoff or termination of employment, marriage, divorce, marriage reconciliation, loss of co-residents, bad health or any other reason...”

After I pointed this out,  he told me he didn’t read the lease.  I asked him, did you sign a document that you did not read and he said yes.  FYI, this student had not yet taken my class where we learn in the first few hours the importance of reading contracts!

This is a major “NO –NO”.  If you are an alumni of my class or a follower of my blog, I’ve taught you the importance of reading everything you sign even if the document is long and boring and even if the person who wants you to sign itsays its “standard and everyone else signs it.”

You always must know  and understand what you are signing in a contract and if you don’t understand it you should ask questions! (the importance of reading contracts will be a topic for an upcoming blog!)

I told the student that he might want to try to get back together with this girlfriend because they were both obligated to pay the rent.   He could also try to talk to the landlord, communication is important and sometimes this works out, but according to the lease contract the landlord had the right to keep their security deposit (over$1000) and to go after them to collect the remainder of the lease payments.  This break- up could really hurt their credit.

We’ll see what happens.  I know the student will from now-on always read every contract he signs and I hope you do too!  If you have questions please feel free to contact me!


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