Breaking a Lease in California
This is a guide to breaking a fixed-term lease agreement in California without consequences or with minimal consequences.
BackgroundIn California, most people think that if they break a lease they are on the hook for the remaining rent until the lease expires. This is almost never how it would work out if the case went to court !!! When a tenant breaks a fixed-term lease, they are technically on the hook for the remaining rent until the lease expires. However, a landlord must take reasonable steps to "mitigate" or cut their losses when this happens. A landlord cannot just let a place stay empty because someone broke a lease. They have to re-rent the place. In a normal rental market, it is relatively easy for a place to be re-rented by the landlord in a short period of time. This concept is called "mitigation of damages" and is set forth in California Civil Code 1951.2. DO NOT let your landlord trick you into paying more money than this code would allow!! The worst case scenario would be to face a small claims case against you where you might get pinned with some damages (one month's rent) but probably far less than the landlord says you owe.
What Do I Do?If you absolutely have to break a lease early, the best thing you can do is give notice in writing that you can no longer go through with lease agreement. Usually, the best way to do this is to give a 30-day notice at the beginning of the month and leave at the end of the month. That way, they will have already had one month to show the place to new tenants. One strategy to consider is to make efforts yourself to get someone to rent the place to help the landlord cut their losses and demonstrate a good rental market if the case goes to court.