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Being honest and polite in negotiations, knowing one’s rights, securing a written copy of lease agreements and asking for a letter of reference are some tips and tricks for tenants looking to break their residential lease early due to the economic impact of COVID-19. These and other findings are outlined below.

Tip #1: Be Honest and Respectful In Negotiations

  • Realtor.com outlines several tips when breaking a residential lease early due to economic difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The number one tip is to be upfront about one’s situation, whether that means being unemployed or wanting to move to a cheaper place to rent.
  • The article points out that many landlords might experience skipped or late rent payments at this time so honesty from tenants might be highly appreciated.
  • Tenants can negotiate breaking a lease early for a lower fee or forfeiting their security deposits.
  • Tenants can also offer to help find a new renter in return for breaking the lease early.
  • Brick Underground.com recommends a similar transparent approach when negotiating with landlords regarding lease agreements.
  • Attorney Mark Hakim of Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas commented, “You want to approach the landlord in a way that they can see where you are coming from, and that you are not just looking to benefit off the back of your landlord.”
  • 6ABC reported that a couple in Philadelphia who suffered unemployment were able to negotiate with their landlord not to pay a $3,500 fee for breaking a residential lease early, in spite of an initial demand to do so.
  • Realtor.com pointed out that landlords are more flexible at this time to protect their cash flow and may consider breaking a lease early for an unemployed tenant in order to accommodate an employed renter.

Tip #2: Know Your Rights

  • However, such ‘habitability claims‘ are best supported by legal counsel and extensive documentation as evidence.
  • Likewise, tenants are also discouraged from breaking a residential lease without legal justification as they might suffer credit damage or court-imposed penalties.

Tip #3: Secure A Written Copy of Agreement

Tip #4: Ask For a Letter of Reference

  • New landlords can check tenants’ background virtually so a good reference from a previous landlord can give them a headstart.
  • Tenants who want to break a residential lease early can help secure a good reference from their landlord by finding a replacement tenant with equally good references.
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