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Can I move out before my lease is up?

Renting an apartment in the Los Angeles area comes with a lot of rules. Knowing your rights and responsibilities can help you avoid many types of difficult situations.

One common question people ask is whether they can break their lease. There are many reasons a tenant might want to move out before the lease is up. Maybe you found a better place, took a job in another state or are sick of dealing with problems at your current location. Certain circumstances do allow you to break a lease.

Terminating for uninhabitable conditions

California landlords bear the responsibility of ensuring habitable conditions for their tenants. Failure to do so may entitle the tenant to legally end the lease and move out.

Before doing so, you must notify the landlord of the problem and allow a reasonable amount of time for repair. You may use any method to notify. However, in the interests of having proof in case of later challenges, you may want to send written notice via certified mail.

What amount of time is reasonable to wait for repairs depends on the specific condition. While most people can wait a few days for an exterminator to address an infestation, hazardous conditions such as faulty wiring may need immediate attention. You may want to document ongoing conditions by taking photographs.

Your penalties and the landlord's duty to mitigate

If you do not have legal grounds to end the lease prematurely, you may have to pay the landlord for any months left on your lease that another tenant does not take over. For example, if you have three months left on your lease and the apartment stays vacant for two before someone else rents it, you may need to pay two months' rent.

However, landlords have a duty to mitigate their losses. This means a landlord cannot simply let your apartment stay vacant and collect rent from you for the rest of your lease. The landlord must actively seek other tenants. If he rejects prospective tenants, he may lose the right to collect rent from you.

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