I moved to Atlanta, Ga from Savannah, Ga last September. I was doing everything remotely. I found an apartment, signed a rental agreement and mailed money orders for a deposit, admin fees, etc. Shortly after doing this I got a call that the apt they had offered me was no longer available because the current tenant had decided to renew. They only had renovated units at a higher price available. They told me if I wanted my money back it would take at least 6 weeks and I was moving in less than 4 for work. I got them to lower the monthly of the renovated, but not by much. I essentially had no choice but to sign the lease because I did not have the time to get my money back.
Fast forward to now and I need to break my lease 1.5 months early to move into a more affordable apartment with a roommate in time for my husband to start school. I approached my office about breaking my lease early and reminded them of the circumstances of my move in. They said If my break my lease early the penalty is one month's rent.
Essentially, due to the situation of my move in do I have any legal standing to not be held to the terms of my lease?
I understand you felt forced to sign the lease, but legally speaking you were not forced. Ultimately you made a decision to go ahead and stay in the other apartment, instead of waiting for the refund of the money you had paid down. What they "said" the penalty for breaking the lease is doesn't matter, what matters is what is in the written lease. A typical early termination provision requires 30-60 days written notice, and a payment of 1-2 month's rent, and sometimes a forfeiture of the security deposit. But not having seen your lease, no one out here knows what it says. Not all leases have an early termination provision. With 1.5 months left, it may likely be best to finish out the lease there. You know it will at least cost you a month's rent, which only leaves 1/2 of a month to deal with. An early termination may negatively impact your rental history.
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