How many months are left on your lease? If not many, it might be less costly just to pay to the end of the lease. Read your lease for cleanup expenses and requirements. Your security deposit might be reduced by costs you are responsible for. If you are in Chicago proper, you might with to review the pertinent portions of the Chicago Residential Landlords and Tenants Code:
Or, since this is in Chicago, you can have an attorney review your situation and find out if the Chicago RLTO applies, and if so, if there is any legal way to terminate your lease early for you without you owing costs of re-renting. In the absence of that option however, your landlord is right.
This information is general and does not constitute legal advice, or create an attorney client relationship.
Does your lease have an early termination clause? Some leases have termination clauses that allow early termination for a fee. If there is no termination clause, you may be liable for the months in which the apartment was empty -- however, your landlord has a duty to mitigate damages, meaning he must actively try to relet the property if you leave. Your security deposit should cover any necessary repairs to the property.
I would recommend having an attorney review your lease and advise you of your options. Best of luck!
Please note that this answer is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or an offer to form an attorney-client relationship.
If your lease is governed by the Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance your only remedy is to sublet and the landlord can't charge for the change in tenancy. When it comes to getting your name off the lease, however, you must have someone review the lease; negotiating a termination with your name off the lease is a whole different ballgame. However, spring is "prime" leasing season and the landlord may be motivated by the ability to relet your apartment for a higher rent.......but that's a bargaining point, not a legal one. If you're not sure how to navigate this, get an attorney involved.