A lot of things can happen before you finally move into an apartment. You may suddenly lose your job, be assigned to a different city, or encounter a family emergency. Whatever the situation, scenarios like this can result in you breaking a lease before moving in. This can have serious consequences, especially if you’ve already signed an apartment lease.

So what happens when you break a lease? How long is it before you can back out of a lease? How do you deal with your landlord? Read our handy guide below so you know exactly what to do in this situation.

What’s an apartment lease agreement?

Before anything, it’s important to understand what a lease agreement is and what it means. Essentially, when signing the document, both you and your landlord agree to fulfill certain responsibilities. This typically includes details of what your landlord will provide, when your rent should be paid, and any house rules.

You might feel you can still back out of the lease if you haven’t moved in yet. But the reality is that when you’re breaking a lease before moving in, you’re actually violating a legally binding document. Because you signed the contract, you agreed to be subject to the lease’s terms, conditions, and financial obligations.

Some tenants might try to invoke their “right to rescind,” but this doesn’t really apply when renting an apartment. This basically refers to a borrower’s right to cancel certain types of loans after three days. Also, there’s no 24-hour “cooling-off” policy that you can use to cancel the contract.

Check if your lease agreement contains a termination clause. It should have clearly defined guidelines on what you’re entitled to in case you want to cancel your lease before moving in. Your landlord might also ask you to submit a 30-day notice before you officially break the lease. This gives your landlord time to look for a new tenant to rent the space.

Related article: What Happens If One Roommate Breaks The Lease?

What can you expect from your landlord when you’re breaking a lease before moving in?

First of all, both you and the landlord should refer back to the apartment lease agreement before taking action. This contract serves as a guide to what you’re supposed to do.

The landlord should properly explain what you are entitled to and what your legal obligations are. Most states insist that landlords make a good-faith effort to find a new tenant as soon as possible. This means that you, as the existing tenant, should continue paying your dues until the property is re-rented.

You might have a perfectly valid reason for needing to cancel your lease before moving in. It might be something entirely beyond your control. You may have lost your source of income or encountered a medical emergency, making it hard to pay rent. Unfortunately, in these cases, it’s still up to your landlord to decide whether to let you off the hook.

What’s an early lease termination letter?

Once a new renter signs a lease agreement, your lease is no longer valid. Until that time, you’re expected to continue paying rent. Note that if you don’t pay your debt, your landlord could bring the matter to court.

Your landlord might have asked you to sign an early lease termination letter. This is basically an additional section or clause that’s added to a lease agreement. It also acts as your landlord’s memo of what you need to do and by when, since you’re breaking a lease before moving in.

This letter is a requirement in most states so that the termination of the lease becomes valid. It should include the reason behind needing to cancel your lease before moving in. This document should also list the fees you need to pay and how these will be collected. Without this letter, the issue could be brought to court. If it’s not required by the state, then your landlord might waive this requirement.

Related: 6 Signs You’re Ready To Move To A New City During The Coronavirus Pandemic

What about the security deposit?

You’ve probably thought about your security deposit, too. Before moving in, you paid this fee that’s usually equivalent to two or three months’ rent. When breaking a lease, your security deposit can be used to pay for damages or repairs on the property. It can also be used for cleaning expenses, replacing keys, or for your back rent.

When breaking a lease before moving in, you need to follow standard protocol, like paying a fee or forfeiting your security deposit. This is all part of the process of terminating the lease early.

Until a new renter is found, your landlord can apply the security deposit to cover your rent. They can then give you anything left over once someone new moves in.

Your landlord could also collect your rent and give you back the deposit once a new renter is found. Since you didn’t occupy the apartment anyway, you should get it back in full. Your landlord should only tap into the security deposit if you fail to pay your rent.

Does breaking a lease before moving in affect your credit?

Yes. When you fail to pay rent on top of breaking a lease, your landlord may be forced to take legal action. And if your landlord wins the case, a collection agency may take on the unpaid debt. Unless you pay up or come to a settlement, breaking a lease before moving in will impact your credit score.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Lease Signing In New York

The bottom line

We hope this article has answered everything you need to know about breaking a lease before moving in. At the end of the day, nobody plans on intentionally breaking a lease after poring through endless listings for the perfect apartment. Whatever the reason, whether within or beyond your control, there are agreements in place for a reason.

Thankfully, Roomi comes with practical features to help add some wiggle room for tenants. If you need to cancel your accommodation, you’ll be entitled to a full or partial refund of your first rental payment minus any applicable service fees. Note that this will depend on the kind of cancellation policy that your landlord selected. While this policy doesn’t necessarily terminate your lease agreement, it does offer additional protection if you have a change of plans.

Want to learn more? You can read all about how each cancellation policy works by visiting the Roomi website. As a Roomi user, you can also make use of the built-in messaging feature on the app or site. Use it to ask your landlord any queries about your agreement before signing a lease.

Do you know what else Roomi does outside of providing helpful guides on renting an apartment? With our ever-increasing lists of rooms and roommates across the world, we help you find your perfect match! Browse available rooms for rent on our website and hop on the easiest ride home, ever!