Can I Break My Lease After Home Burglary? Here’s everything you need to know…
A home burglary can be an upsetting experience for tenants. Following such an incident, many renters might wonder about their next moves, including breaking their lease.
Understanding tenants’ and landlords’ rights and obligations is critical when dealing with this complex issue. Generally, breaking a lease after a home burglary depends on your jurisdiction’s laws and regulations and the terms expressed in your lease agreement.
Sometimes, tenants can discontinue their lease without penalty if a home burglary compromises their security. However, it helps to review your lease agreement carefully to see if it has any provisions for early termination due to safety and security issues.
Read this guide to acquaint yourself with all your options and never violate the law.
What Is a Home Lease?
A home lease is a statutory contract between a lessor and a tenant for the purpose of occupying a residential house. It highlights the terms and conditions of the rental agreements, including the rights and obligations of both parties. This ensures both parties’ best interests are protected, as neither can change the arrangements without written consent from the other.
- Understanding a Lease
A lease stipulates the terms of a rental agreement between landlords and tenants. Since the landlord writes these documents (or with their approval), they may disregard the tenant’s best interests, focusing more on what matters most to the landlord.
Before signing a lease, one of the essential things to do is to sift through it carefully to ensure everything stands out as correct.
Here’s what you should look for on your home lease:
- Rent Total and Payment Procedures
The total rent due is the first thing to verify when sifting through a lease. Check that this total corresponds to what you and the landlord agreed on. If it’s different, ask whether it’s a mistake, an unanticipated change, or a total that incorporates other fees like parking or pet fees.
Besides checking the total rent, search for information on when the rent must be paid and how long of a grace period you should make the payment. Some landlords prefer one payment method over another or can only allow specific payment types.
Check carefully to see if you’ll be mandated to write a check for the rent or pay via direct bank transfer. Also, check how much you will be charged and other implications if you delay paying rent.
- Lease Term and Renewal Procedures
After verifying that the rental amount corresponds to what you and the landlord agreed on, review the lease terms to ensure they align with your previous discussions. Examine the lease’s start and end dates and what happens after the lease expires.
Will the lease become a month-to-month arrangement, or will you be mandated to sign a new lease?
- Security Deposit
Security deposits are common when renting an apartment. However, the deposit amount varies from rental to rental. Most security deposits equal the monthly rental fee, but some may be higher.
Some states have a maximum amount that property owners can charge, usually equivalent to 1 ½ to 2 months’ rental price. Besides confirming the security deposit, ensure that the lease outlines why the landlord can retain the deposit when moving out of the house.
- Guest and Roommate Policies
Although your landlord is unlikely to enact policies restricting your ability to host guests coming to visit, they may limit your ability to have a roommate.
As such, many landlords indicate in the lease how long guests can stay before being considered roommates, which can violate lease terms. You should be informed about this essential information, primarily if you have friends who like visiting for longer periods.
- Responsible Party for Utility Payments
The duty of paying for utilities, e.g. water and gas, vary when renting a home. Some landlords take utility responsibilities and include the cost in the rent, while others require tenants to pay for their utilities. This is information you should know about before signing a lease, as it might significantly affect your monthly bills.
- Pet Policy
If you have not already reviewed your landlord’s pet policy, read the lease carefully to learn more. Some landlords are against pets, while others can only accept particular breeds or smaller animals. Even though pets are accepted in your rental apartment, you will likely be charged an extra security deposit and a monthly fee for your pet.
- Maintenance Responsibilities
Maintenance roles and tenant expectations can differ from one lease to another. Although many landlords assume full responsibility for property maintenance, others might expect their tenants to perform basic tasks like removing snow and mowing the lawn.
While researching which tasks you and your landlord will be in charge of, look closely for information about the landlord’s ability to access the property and how much notice they should give before entering.
- Renter’s Insurance Requirements
Landlords have insurance policies for their property. Unfortunately, these insurance policies do not cover your possessions but only cover property damage. It would help to take out renters insurance. This might be a lease requirement, so you should confirm that before signing and moving in.
Note: Not all leases are created equal, but they all share some characteristics, including the rent amount, the due date of rent, and the expiration date of the lease. The landlord mandates the tenant to sign the lease, indicating agreements to its terms before residing in the property.
You should retain a copy of the lease for the records. This can be handy if disputes arise.
- Special Considerations
The implications for breaching a lease range from mild to severe, based on the conditions under which they are broken. If you break a lease without negotiating with the landlord, you’ll face a civil lawsuit, a libelous mark on your credit report, or both.
As a tenant, you may face difficulties renting a new residence if you break a lease. You may also encounter other issues related to having negative entries on a credit report.
If you want to break a lease, discuss it with your landlord or seek legal counsel. Sometimes, giving a particular amount of notice or renouncing the security deposit allows you to break a lease without consequences.
Some leases include early termination clauses, allowing tenants to discontinue their contracts under specific conditions (divorce-induced difficulty, job relocation) or if their landlords don’t meet their contractual obligations. For example, you can terminate a lease if the landlord delays repair to the property.
- Projected Groups
Some groups of people have greater flexibility in terminating leases early. Key among these is military personnel. According to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, members of the military can terminate their leases if they get active-duty orders demanding them to relocate for more than three months.
Some states permit domestic violence victims to break their leases without implications. However, the abuse should be recent, and the tenant must provide proof, including a court order of protection.
Many states also allow renters, particularly older adults, to break a lease prematurely because of disability or health conditions that make dwelling in the current home untenable. In this case, one will need a letter from a local doctor or other medical professional proving the health condition.
- How Do Leases Work?
Leases are legally binding contracts between the landlord and the tenant. They involve the owner renting out a piece of property to the tenant. These contracts can be verbal agreements but are usually drawn up in writing.
Both parties consent to all aspects of the lease, including the length of the contract, rental amount, and any implications that may arise if either party fails to fulfill the terms and conditions of the contract.
What Is Home Burglary?
Home burglary is a criminal act in which an individual breaks into a residential dwelling without permission to commit theft, damage, or harm. A home burglary comes in all shapes. Given below are the key aspects of a home burglary:
- Unlawful Entry: Burglars can invade a home by breaking windows or locks, leveraging vulnerabilities in security systems, and forcing the doors open. They usually target homes that seem unoccupied or have limited security measures.
- Intent: The most common reason for a home burglary is theft. Burglars look for valuable things such as jewelry, firearms, electronics, and cash, among other sellable possessions. In addition, home burglary can involve vandalism, assault, or property damage.
- Timing: Burglars often do their misdeeds when homeowners are not around for an extended period, like during vacations, working hours, or at night when everyone is asleep. Empty homes are more susceptible and offer burglars with high odds of going undetected.
- Impact on Victims: Home burglary can affect the victim emotionally and financially. Privacy violations, property damage, and a sense of insecurity can cause distress, anxiety, and a sense of vulnerability. Seeking help from professionals, friends, or family can be helpful in the recovery process.
- Prevention: You can implement preventative measures to minimize the likelihood of home burglary. This includes installing genuine security systems like surveillance cameras and alarms and keeping the home well-lit.
Why Was My Home Burgled?
Various reasons can make your home susceptible to burglars. Find out more below:
- Insider Knowledge: Sometimes, a burglary occurs because of inside knowledge or information from someone familiar with your home. This may include service providers or former employees with sufficient knowledge about your home.
- A Dark Home: Most perpetrators rely on darkness to hide their unlawful behavior. Therefore, they’ll avoid a well-lit home. Leave on porch lights to deter burglars from approaching entry doors, and set up motion detector lights to discourage them from looking for an open window. For extra protection, install timers on interior lamps to create the impression that your house is always occupied.
- Posting Photos of Your Keys Online: New homeowners commonly upload a picture of a new set of keys in front of a new home. Unfortunately, some apps and computer programs can zero in on your key photo and replicate it. This can render your home a primary target for burglars as they can upload those details to a key-cutting service and get a duplicate key to your door lock.
- An Empty Driveway: Empty driveways are a formal request for a robbery because burglars prefer invading vacant houses. Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to park in your driveway when you are away from home, especially for extended periods.
- Unlocked Windows: Burglars often search for unlocked windows, which are easy to enter after targeting a home. Before bed or leaving the house, close and lock all windows and drapes, so intruders can’t look inside and be tempted by any valuable items in plain sight.
- Overgrown Lawn: An overgrown lawn and neglected landscaping imply that residents are away. Furthermore, unkempt bushes can provide protective cover for burglars as they access your home. It would help to trim your plants to a height that does not obscure your view from the windows and mow your lawn periodically. If you are going on vacation, enlist the help of a neighbor to maintain your yard.
- Oversharing Vacation Pics on Social Media: Most people like posting vacation updates on social media. While this can get you many likes, it alerts burglars that you’re not home, making your house a primary target. Keep your home safe by only sharing vacation photos once you get home.
- Unlocked Garage: A burglar can quickly access your house after barging into an attached garage. Ensure you lock your garage door whenever you leave the house. It’s also advisable to turn off automatic garage door openers if you’re planning a vacation, as some openers can be triggered with wire or intercepted radio signals.
- Unlocked Outbuildings or Storage Sheds: What items are often stored in storage sheds? Pry bars, hammers, and a host of other items that facilitate forced entry into your home. Ensure you keep your tools safe after use and lock your sheds and outbuildings.
- A Hidden Spare Key: Hiding a spare key under a porch rug or inside a planter may seem creative, but skilled thieves know the best hiding spots. Instead, give a trusted neighbor your spare key or set up a keypad lock for your front door.
- Expensive Items on Display: Want to dispose of the box for your new flat-screen television? Please do not put it on the curb, as this will advertise that you have pricey electronics in your home. Safely get rid of boxes for valuable products by cutting them up with a box cutter and tossing them in the trash can. Similarly, do not leave expensive grills and other valuables in plain view.
- Lack of Home Safety: Not all homeowners can afford a pricey security system, but you can discourage many perpetrators by making them assume your home is protected. Without a proper security system, burglars can break linto your home and get away with your possessions. Placing a security decal on the window will deter many intruders. You can also set up dummy security surveillance systems that closely mimic the genuine ones. A “beware of dog” sign will also do the trick, but it’s worth considering installing real home security systems for better protection.
- Leaving Newspapers and Flyers Buildup: Burglars often look for newspapers stacked up on the driveway. And they could place a pizza flier on your front door to gauge how long it will take to remove it.
- Location: Homes in high-visibility areas, such as corner lots, are unlikely to be intruded. But townhomes are much better targets for burglars. This is primarily true if your home backs up to unguarded areas like forests. A quick fix to this is to make your home difficult to access by installing high fences and bright lights.
- Flower Starts to Wilt: A skilled thief can quickly tell you are not around by spotting a few wilted flowers. This is an open invitation for burglars.
How to Break a Lease Because of Burglary
Dealing with a home burglary is stressful enough, so you want to avoid the added stress of breaching your lease. You can break a lease due to burglary, but some state landlord and tenant laws do not permit you to do so without consequences. Check out these general steps involved in breaking a lease because of burglary:
- Review Lease Agreement: Closely review your lease agreement for insight into the terms and conditions of lease termination or early termination. Look for provisions on security concerns or the ability to terminate the lease because of unforeseen events.
- Document the Burglary: Gather enough evidence of the burglary. This includes police reports and photos of damages, among other necessary documentation. This will aid in supporting your argument in legal proceedings or when talking to your landlord about the situation.
- Inform Your Landlord: Report the burglary to your property management company or landlord as soon as you can. Give them an in-depth account of what happened, such as damages or lost items. It would help to communicate in writing and keep a copy of your records.
- Request Security Enhancement: You can request your landlord or property management company to improve the security measures of the property based on the circumstances. This includes installing security cameras, lighting, and strengthening locks. Document all interactions and responses to your requests.
Sometimes, you can negotiate with your landlord to amicably terminate the lease or agree to break the lease without incurring severe penalties. This includes sacrificing your security deposit and paying some of the remaining lease terms.
- Confer with an Attorney: If your landlord is unwilling to take on your security concerns appropriately, seek legal advice from a certified attorney who practices landlord-tenant law. They can assess your situation, go over your lease agreement, and advise you on the best action.
- Follow Legal Procedures: If you cannot reach an agreement with your landlord and decide to violate the lease without their consent, you should follow the legal channels outlined by the local laws. It may include giving written notice, complying with any necessary notice periods, and involving a legal process in case of disputes.
How to Spot a Predatory Lease Agreement
A predatory lease is an unlawful or arbitrary rental contract that exploits the renter. Sometimes these contracts are outright scams intended to defraud tenants of their money or possessions. These unlawful agreements exploit the fact that most renters don’t understand their rights when leasing a property.
Check out these clues that the lease is fraudulent when examining lease:
- It Demands a Huge Deposit
The landlord often asks for a security deposit when you move into a new house. Some predatory lease agreements will mandate renters to pay thousands of dollars in advance, setting a major financial strain on the applicant accompanied by the risk of never seeing that money again.
Some states restrict how much a lessor can ask for a security deposit. Even if your state does not limit deposits, the industry standard is 1 or 2 months’ rent. If a property owner demands more than that, consider it a predatory lease.
- The Landlord Pressures You to Sign the Lease
Some landlords can pressure you to sign the lease immediately. They might encourage you to refrain from reading it by claiming many people are interested in the property. You should only sign an agreement after carefully reviewing it.
- There Is No Way to Terminate the Lease
While you might plan to stay in your new home for years, situations can change. Depending on your location, the landlord can charge you rent until they find another renter.
Look for provisions about breaking a lease when examining the lease. If you don’t see a clear indication of early lease termination, you might pay rent even if you relocate.
What If I Move Out Without Telling My Landlord?
Moving out without informing your landlord is not advisable as it can have legal and financial implications, which I have discussed below:
- Violation of Lease Agreement: If you move out without giving proper notice or complying with the procedures in your lease agreement, it will be regarded as a breach of contract. This can make you liable for the remaining rent payments or penalties highlighted in the agreement.
- Financial Obligations: If you move out without telling your landlord, they can hold you responsible for paying rent until a new renter is found. That means you might be responsible for unpaid rent during the vacancy period.
- Security Deposit: If you relocate before the lease term expires, your landlord may withhold your security deposit. Landlords inspect and assess any damages or rent arrears before refunding the deposit.
- Legal Action: Your landlord can pursue legal action against you for terminating the lease without notice. This can result in possible financial judgments against you.
- Rental History and References: Violating a lease agreement can negatively affect your rental history and references. Future landlords might refuse to rent to you if they find out that you terminated a previous lease unlawfully.
What Is My Landlords Responsibilities After Burglary?
Landlords have specific responsibilities after a burglary in a rental unit to address the issue and support the victims. Although specific duties differ based on local laws and lease agreement terms, here are some responsibilities of landlords after a burglary:
- Security Assessment: The landlord should assess the property’s security to discover any vulnerabilities that facilitated the burglary. They can examine doors, windows, and other entry points and take steps to improve security measures.
- Repairs and Restoration: If the burglary caused property damage, the landlord should organize repairs to restore it to its initial condition. This includes fixing broken windows and doors or replacing damaged locks.
- Safety Measures: Following a burglary, the landlord should implement additional safety measures to discourage future burglaries. This involves upgrading existing security systems, installing lighting around the premises and reinforcing doors.
- Collaboration with Law Enforcement: After a burglary, landlords should cooperate with the police during investigations. It includes allowing access to the rental unit for evidence collection and working with the investigators to aid in solving the issue.
- Temporary Accommodation: If the property is inhabitable because of severe damage or security concerns, the landlord might be liable for organizing temporary housing for the tenant while repairs continue.
Note: Local laws may govern the specific responsibilities of landlords. So you should carefully review the lease agreement to understand your landlord’s obligations. You can also collaborate with your landlord after a burglary by providing them with the crime reference number given by the police so they can claim damage repairs from their insurance provider.
The decision to terminate a lease after a home burglary is a complex issue that depends on the laws in your jurisdiction, the lease agreement terms, etc. While experiencing a burglary can be upsetting, it does not necessarily grant you the right to break your lease without penalties. It would be better to approach the process responsibly and legally to avoid financial liabilities and legal repercussions.