Can Landlord Keep Deposit for Breaking Lease

In many jurisdictions, landlords can retain a tenant’s security deposit if the tenant breaks their lease agreement. This is because the deposit is typically used to cover any costs associated with the tenant’s early departure, such as the cost of advertising the unit for a new tenant, repairing any damage to the unit, and cleaning the unit. The amount of the deposit that the landlord can keep will vary depending on the terms of the lease agreement and the specific circumstances of the tenant’s departure. In some cases, the landlord may be able to keep the entire deposit, while in other cases they may only be able to keep a portion of it.

Breaking a Lease: Consequences

Breaking a lease can result in significant financial penalties and other unfavorable consequences for tenants. It’s crucial for tenants to fully understand the terms of their lease agreement and any potential implications of terminating it early. By carefully reviewing the lease and considering the consequences, tenants can make informed decisions about their tenancy.

Unfavorable Lease Termination Consequences

  • Financial Penalties:
    • Early Termination Fees: A common penalty for breaking a lease is an early termination fee, usually a flat fee or a percentage of the remaining rent.
    • Forfeiture of Security Deposit: In many cases, landlords may keep all or a portion of the tenant’s security deposit to cover the costs associated with breaking the lease.
    • Additional Rent Payments: Some leases stipulate that tenants are responsible for paying rent for the entire lease term, even if they vacate early.
  • Legal Ramifications: Depending on the circumstances and the terms of the lease, breaking a lease could result in legal action by the landlord, including:
  • Eviction: Landlords may initiate eviction proceedings against tenants who break their lease, potentially leading to court appearances and an eviction record.
  • Lawsuit for Damages: Landlords may sue tenants for damages incurred due to the lease break, such as lost rent, cleaning and repair costs, and any other expenses related to finding a new tenant.
Lease Termination Fees by State
StateEarly Termination FeeSecurity Deposit ForfeitureAdditional Rent Payment
California1-2 months’ rentUp to 2 months’ rentYes, for the entire lease term
New York1-2 months’ rentUp to 1 month’s rentNo
TexasUp to 2 months’ rentUp to 2 months’ rentYes, for the remaining lease term

Before breaking a lease, it’s important for tenants to thoroughly assess their financial situation and consider the potential consequences. Consulting with a legal professional or tenant rights organization can provide valuable guidance in understanding the terms of the lease and the implications of terminating it early.

Early Lease Termination Fees

Landlords can charge a fee for breaking a lease. This fee is usually stated in the lease agreement and is typically a percentage (often one or two months’) of the monthly rent. In some cases, the landlord may also charge an additional fee to cover administrative costs associated with re-renting the unit.

Landlords are permitted to keep security deposits for various reasons, although not all reasons are legal. Here are some common reasons why a landlord might keep your security deposit:

  • Unpaid rent or utilities.
  • Damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear.
  • Cleaning fees if the property is left excessively dirty.
  • Cost to re-key the property if keys are not returned, are lost, or if locks are changed without permission.

If you’re thinking about breaking your lease, it’s essential to weigh the costs and benefits involved. Here are some things to consider:

  • The early termination fee: This is the fee you’ll have to pay the landlord for breaking your lease. Be sure to find out about the fee in advance and factor it into your decision.
  • The cost of moving: If you break your lease, you’ll have to move out of your current home and find a new one. This can be a costly and time-consuming process.
  • The inconvenience of moving: Moving is a lot of work and can be very disruptive to your life. If you break your lease, you’ll have to pack up your belongings, find a new place to live, and move everything over.
  • The potential for legal action: If you break your lease without the landlord’s consent, the landlord may take legal action against you. This could result in a judgment against you, which could damage your credit and make it difficult to rent in the future.
Pros of Breaking a Lease
FlexibilityBreaking a lease gives you the flexibility to move to a new location or change your living situation.
Get Out of a Bad SituationIf you’re having problems with your landlord, neighbors, or the property itself, breaking your lease can allow you to get out of a bad situation.
Pursue New OpportunitiesBreaking a lease can allow you to take advantage of new opportunities, such as a job in a different city or a chance to live closer to family.
Cons of Breaking a Lease
Early Termination FeesBreaking a lease often involves paying an early termination fee, which can amount to one or more months’ rent.
Finding a New PlaceYou might have difficulty finding a new place to live, especially if you’re looking for something within your budget and in a desirable location.
Legal IssuesBreaking a lease without the landlord’s consent could lead to legal problems, such as a lawsuit and a judgment against you.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to break your lease is a personal one. Weigh the costs and benefits carefully and make the choice that is best for you.

Landlord’s Duty to Mitigate Damages

When a tenant breaks a lease, the landlord is entitled to recover damages. However, the landlord also has a duty to mitigate damages, which means that the landlord must take reasonable steps to minimize the amount of damages.

Reasonable Steps to Mitigate Damages

  • Advertising the property to find a new tenant as soon as possible.
  • Considering any prospective tenants who meet the landlord’s requirements.
  • Accepting a lower rent from a new tenant if necessary to fill the vacancy.

If the landlord does not take reasonable steps to mitigate damages, the tenant may be able to recover damages from the landlord for the landlord’s failure to mitigate.

Calculating Damages for Breaking a Lease

The amount of damages that a landlord can recover for a broken lease will vary depending on the circumstances. Some of the factors that will be considered include:

  • The length of time that the property is vacant.
  • The amount of rent that the landlord is losing.
  • Any costs that the landlord incurs in finding a new tenant.

In some cases, the landlord may also be able to recover damages for lost profits if the landlord was planning to use the property for a specific purpose.

Table: Landlord’s Duty to Mitigate Damages

Landlord’s DutyReasonable Steps to Mitigate Damages
Advertise the property to find a new tenant as soon as possible.Place ads in newspapers, online, and on social media. Hold open houses and showings.
Consider any prospective tenants who meet the landlord’s requirements.Screen tenants carefully to ensure that they are qualified and have a good rental history.
Accept a lower rent from a new tenant if necessary to fill the vacancy.Be willing to negotiate on rent in order to find a new tenant quickly.


If you’ve had a change of heart about breaking your lease, talk to your landlord about renegotiating the terms. Depending on the landlord and the circumstances, they may be willing to work with you to find a solution that benefits both parties.

  • Explain your situation: Be honest with your landlord about why you want to break your lease. They may be more understanding if they know you’re not just trying to get out of your obligations.
  • Offer a compromise: If you can’t afford to pay the full lease break fee, offer to pay a smaller amount or move out sooner than the end of your lease term.
  • Be prepared to walk away: If your landlord is unwilling to negotiate, you may have to accept the fact that you’ll lose your deposit.

Subletting Options

If you’re unable to renegotiate your lease, you may be able to sublet your apartment to someone else. This means finding someone who is willing to take over your lease for the remainder of the term.

  • Check your lease: Make sure your lease allows subletting. If it does, there may be specific procedures you need to follow.
  • Find a subletter: Advertise your apartment online or through a real estate agent. Be sure to screen potential subletters carefully.
  • Create a sublease agreement: Once you’ve found a subletter, create a written sublease agreement that outlines the terms of the sublease.
Pros and Cons of Subletting
Keeps you from losing your depositCan be difficult to find a qualified subletter
Provides you with a source of incomePotential damage to your apartment by the subletter
Gives you the flexibility to move out before the end of your lease termMay require you to pay a subletting fee

That’s all about when a landlord can keep the deposit for breaking a lease. I hope you enjoyed reading the article. If you have any questions or queries, feel free to leave a comment below, and I’ll try my best to answer them. Also, don’t forget to come back for more interesting articles on various topics. Until next time, take care and keep learning!