There are many reasons why tenants need help breaking a lease in Washington. You may have issues with your neighbors, health problems, noise concerns, or even fear for your safety. However, the Landlord-Tenant Act doesn’t let you break your lease for just any reason and in many cases, there will be fees involved.
How do you get out of a lease early? When breaking a lease in Washington, you should always try negotiating with your landlord first. If you can get something in writing from your landlord about terminating your lease and not paying any penalties, your landlord will be held to the new agreement.
Landlords aren’t required to release you from your lease. If you are trying to determine how to break an apartment lease in Washington, you only have a handful of legal reasons that qualify. Unless your reason is legally viable, you may have to pay a penalty to officially end your lease early.
Washington Lease Laws – Tenant Rights & Responsibilities When Signing a Lease in WA
In general, renters rights change based on the lease and the state where the rental agreement was made. These rights and responsibilities can vary depending on whether it’s a month-to-month lease or a fixed-term rental agreement.
According to the WA Residential Landlord-Tenant Act RCW 59.18.230 (2)(a), a landlord is not able to put their own rules and regulations within the lease agreement if they go against Washington lease laws.
Renters always have the right to defend themselves in court as pertaining to RCW 59.18.230(2)(b).
Because of RCW 59.18.230(4), landlords are not permitted to take your belongings as collateral if you do not pay your rent.
According to landlord tenant laws, your landlord is allowed to charge you the following fees as part of your rental agreement:
- Screening fee
- Application fee
- Security deposit (RCW 59.18.260)
- First and last month’s rent paid in advance
- Cleaning fees and non-refundable pet deposits
There are many reasons why tenants need help breaking a lease in Washington. You may have issues with your neighbors, health problems, noise concerns, or even fear for your safety. However, the Washington Landlord-Tenant Act doesn’t let you break your lease for just any reason and in many cases, there will be fees involved.
What Happens if You Break a Lease in Washington?
More importantly, how can you break your lease without a penalty?
Breaking a lease in Washington for medical reasons, job relocations, breakups, and similar reasons will all result in a penalty. The penalty is the lesser of the following fees:
- The remaining cost of your rental lease.
- The cost of rent until a tenant is found to take your place.
You may also be charged advertising costs as your landlord works to find a new tenant. If they can only find a tenant who will pay less than your previous monthly rental amount, you may also be charged the difference.
Whether you are breaking a commercial lease in Washington or an apartment lease, your best option is to negotiate directly with your landlord. You can leave the lease whenever you want, but you will have to pay substantial fees. The only exception is if you can convince your landlord to let you out of the lease.
Your landlord has no obligation to let you break the lease early and has every right to continue charging you for the remainder of your agreed term. If you give them enough advance warning and are respectful, they may decide to reduce the penalty or work with you. But they have no legal obligation to let you break your lease, so don’t be surprised if they are unwilling to do so.
How to Get Out of a Lease in Washington
How do you get out of a lease early? If you are trying to determine how to break an apartment lease in Washington, you only have a handful of legal ways to do it. Unless your reason is legally viable, you may have to pay a penalty to officially end your lease early.
Finding out how to break a lease in Washington is important if you want to save money. If you are trying to learn how to break an apartment lease in Washington, the following situations can save you money and avoid fees. These reasons are the only legal justifications you can use to break a lease in Washington without having to pay a penalty.
You Are a Victim of Stalking or Domestic Violence
According to RCW 59.18.575, breaking an apartment lease in Washington is allowed if you are a victim of domestic violence, unlawful harassment, or stalking. You have to meet certain legal requirements like reporting the act to a third party or your local law enforcement.
If you are researching how to break a lease in Washington because you fear for your safety, there are certain circumstances where breaking a rental lease in Washington is allowed. If you fit any of the following, you may have a legal justification for breaking a lease in Washington:
- You are a victim of domestic violence.
- Your landlord harasses you and/or violates your privacy.
- Your unit is unsafe or violates health and safety codes.
You Are an Active-Duty Military Member
Another one of the legal reasons to break a lease in Washington is under 50 U.S.C. APP., §§501-596. Breaking a lease in Washington is penalty-free if you are a part of the uniformed services. In accordance with this rule, you must mail or deliver written notice of your tenancy termination to the landlord.
Your lease will end 30 days after the next date your rent is due. It doesn’t matter when your lease is supposed to end as long as you are entering active military service after you have signed your lease.
Your Location Violates a Health Code or Is Not Safe
Under Chapter 59.18 RCW, the State of Washington carefully covers all of the duties a landlord has to their tenants. For example, RCW 59.18.060 says landlords must keep the unit fit for human habitation. This means electrical wires, plumbing, building materials, roofs, and windows should all be in working order.
If the unit isn’t livable according to state and local housing codes, you can be constructively evicted. For all practical purposes, your landlord has evicted you from the unit by making it unhealthy or unsafe. According to RCW 59.18.100, 59.18.110, and 59.18.115, you don’t have to pay any additional rent for a constructive eviction.
You must follow set legal procedures if you want to correctly understand how to break a lease legally in Washington using this rule. Local groups like Bellingham Housing Authority or the Spokane Housing Authority can give you more information about how to use these laws. In general, the problem has to be something major like a lack of heat or no running water.
You Are Harassed by Your Landlord or They Violate Your Rights
Breaking an apartment lease in Washington can also be done if your landlord violates your rights or harasses you. According to WA lease law RCW 59.19.150, your landlord must give you two days’ notice before entering your unit. If they are showing the home to prospective buyers or tenants, they still have to give you a day’s notice.
If your landlord continues to violate your right to privacy, you have been constructively evicted. The same is true if they switch your locks, turn off your water, or remove your doors without your knowledge or written communication.
Minimize Early Termination Penalty for Breaking Your WA Lease
Once you and your landlord have signed the lease agreement, it is a binding contract for both parties to complete the terms. Even if you decide not to move into your location, it still counts as breaking a lease in Washington. This means you are subject to the same regulations and penalties you normally have to deal with when breaking an apartment lease in Washington.
There are a handful of ways you can limit or avoid these lease penalties altogether.
Talk to Your Landlord
When breaking a lease in Washington, you should always try negotiating with your landlord first. If you can get something in writing from your landlord about terminating your lease and not paying any penalties, your landlord will be held to the new agreement.
Keep in mind, landlords aren’t required to release you from your lease agreement. They may want you to fulfill some portion of your arrangement or at least find another source of replacing the lease you plan to break.
Find a Replacement Tenant
One way you can possibly avoid penalties for breaking your lease in Washington is by finding a new tenant to take your place. This is an agreement that you’ll have to discuss with your landlord and have them create a new agreement with the replacement tenant.
Sublease the Location
A great option to avoid having to pay for the lease yourself is by subleasing it to someone else. In a sense, you then become a landlord and the new tenant will pay you rent, which you can then pay your own landlord. It’s important to understand that if the sublease tenant you find doesn’t make their monthly payment, the responsibility will still fall on you to provide rent to your landlord on time.
Need Help Moving After Breaking a Washington Lease?
Breaking a lease in Washington can lead to stiff penalties unless it is due to a few specific reasons that are qualified under local laws. Otherwise, you will end up paying additional costs related to your lease agreement.
If you are breaking your lease and need help relocating to a new home or apartment, the team at All Ready Moving is here to help. Call us today at (360) 507-2447 or complete the Request a Quote form above for a free moving estimate!