The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," ran in the Champaign News-Gazette.
I want to move from my current apartment but must wait to be admitted to the new complex. If I renew my current lease but then get admitted to the new place, what can I do? How do I get out of that renewed lease?
It’s a common dilemma, with no perfect solution. You don’t want to tie yourself to your old place, but the new place isn’t ready yet.
The best solution would probably be a month-to-month lease at your old place. That’s the minimum tie you can have, and the easiest to cut. When you want to move, you give a 30-day notice.
But, just as you can end things with just a 30-day notice, so can the landlord. They can also raise the rent with just a 30-day notice. That’s the downside to a month-to-month lease.
(Note: The 30-day notice required to terminate a month-to-month lease, or to raise the rent, must be delivered a full 30 days before the next rent payment is due. The idea is to give a full, complete rent cycle before the lease termination or rent increase goes into effect.)
There’s a chance that if you didn’t simply didn’t sign a new lease, but stayed and continued to pay rent, the landlord would treat it as a holdover lease on a month-to-month basis. That’s a possible way of getting an unwritten month-to-month lease.
But, the landlord could also consider it a holdover for another year term, or simply try to evict you for holding over. When a tenant holds over after a lease expires, the landlord gets to decide.
If your current landlord doesn't agree to a month-to-month lease, try for a 6-month lease. If that’s not possible, and you renew for a year, it’s a breach to move out before that renewed lease expires. You promised to pay rent for a year, so you’re liable until the lease expires—or the place is re-rented.
You’ll have to decide, then, if moving to the new place is worth the price of the rent you could continue to owe at the old place. But, a calculated breach of a lease or a contract is often a wise choice. It’s not a crime, just a question of money.
If you did move out mid-lease, subleasing that apartment until that lease expires is an option. You could also help the landlord find a new tenant to sign an entirely new lease. Re-renting the place takes you off the hook.
(Unless, of course, it’s re-rented for less than what you were paying. Then, you’re still on the hook for the difference.)
Everything is negotiable, so you could also see if the landlord would agree to let you out of the lease, in exchange for some agreed-upon payment. If so, lump sums are usually more attractive than payment plans. For example, $750 right now often beats $1,000 at $200 a month.