Breaking Up and Breaking the Lease

We are a mobile society.  With the divorce rate well over 50%, many of those people on the move are breaking up with their significant other and moving out of the residence they’ve shared.

When I show a unit to an unmarried couple, I have them fill out the application and I immediately look at their separate and combined income.  If only one person is working I prefer to have their name be the only one on the lease.  If both are working and both incomes are needed to make the unit affordable, they both sign the lease.  Or if one can afford it on their own, I have that person sign the lease.  Why?  Because it can get “sticky” if they split up later and both names are on the lease.

What happens if (when?) they break up and go their separate ways?  If the person who signed the lease can afford to stay, then it’s easy for me as the landlord.  He/she can stay, the other has to go.  When a couple breaks up and both names are on the lease, I can’t make either of them leave, even though they sometimes beg me to do so.

If Landon and Ashley split up, they have to work it out — who stays, who leaves — and I’ll write up a new lease (provided we feel confident Ashley can pay on her own) and have Landon sign a paper saying, “I agree to ending the old lease, dated _______, and I’m giving up all tenancy and deposit rights, and understand the new lease is in Ashley’s name only.”

I just had this happen with a married couple.  Fortunately, it wasn’t a combative situation and she gave him the key and the right to stay there.  I had him fill out a new application because his job had changed; it seems he’ll be making enough money to pay the rent and I’m hoping things will work out.

As usual, I try to keep things simple.  Although break-ups ups are part of  reality, you can work your lease in a way that will minimize the hassle when things fall apart.  Just make sure you think it through before you have your tenants sign the lease . . . as the old song says, breaking up is hard to do.  When there’s a lease involved, it’s even harder.

4 thoughts on “Breaking Up and Breaking the Lease

  1. Pingback: Do I need to leave the air conditioning unit that I purchased in the commercial building that I am vacating? | Daytona Beach Air Conditioning

  2. My boyfriend and I had been together for a long time before he moved interstate. It was a problem at first but then we decided I would move there and we would find a place to live together. I quit my job, packed everything I had and set off. All was good in the first week. We found an apartment and we signed a lease. (both our names on the lease) The day after we signed, without reason he told me that he did not want to live with me nor did he want to continue our relationship. I was stuck, unemployed in a city where I knew no one and had no resources. He then cut me off. Wouldn’t answer my calls or messages. But I knew he was still going to work and seeing our friends, but I couldn’t contact him. I tried everything negotiating with the agent to let me out of the lease. There is no other way other than breaking the lease, losing my bond, paying advertising fees and rent every week until it is re-let. I cannot afford this. I don’t know what to do. I had to move into the place otherwise I’d have no where to sleep. I’m 19, so far away from home and completely distraught. Please give me some advice, even direct me in the direction of somebody that can help me.



    • I’m so sorry for the situation you’re in … this is a tough one for sure. Sounds like your agent is part of a larger company. They’re bound by the rules of that company, whereas many times a small management co. will bend on those rules and release someone like you from their obligations. I would have. But that doesn’t help you now. From what I can see, you only have a couple options:

      1) Through friends, see if your ex would be willing to live there instead of you. Thzt’s what should’ve happended in the first place, makes the most sense. After all, he’s the one who is employed, right? And by the way, since he’s on the lease, he’s responsible for the rent just like you are. If you were to get evicted, he’d be on the eviction notice as well. So, it’s in his best interest that you get the rent paid, unless he doesn’t care if he has an eviction on his record. If he’s evicted, the court can garnish (take) a portion of his wages to pay back rent, along with yours. It’s an ugly scenario, for sure.
      2) If getting him to live there gets you nowhere, find a roommate. Network with friends you have there — put the word out quickly, even if you have to advertise for a stranger! Most cities have weekly, free newspapers with inexpensive classified ads. Be very specific (“responsible, clean, drug-free — think it through before you write the ad!) Put small fliers up in good restaurants, churches, grocery stores — places where viable roommates might frequent. You’re in a crisis and doing nothing is not an option.

      Sadly, what you’ve learned is this: Never sign a lease — and I do mean NEVER — unless you make enough money ON YOUR OWN to cover the cost of rent and other expenses every month. Break-ups are common, unfortunately, and you must protect yourself against this happening.

      Oh, and one other comment … your ex-boyfriend is a jerk, doing this to you. You deserve better, and will find it down the road. Hang in.


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