If I got laid off and can’t afford my rental house, how do I get out and get my deposit back?

UPDATED: Mar 21, 2012

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If I got laid off and can’t afford my rental house, how do I get out and get my deposit back?

I want to exit my current lease because I cannot afford it after being laid off from my job. What is the best way to go about getting out of the lease and getting my security deposit back? I rent a house from an independent landlord. I am not dealing with a rental company. I am in a year lease and have been living here for 2 months. On the first day I moved in the garage door broke leaving our garage unusable. I alerted my landlord immediately and have contacted him several times.

Asked on March 21, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

From what you write, you probably cannot get out of your lease or get your deposit back if you vacate prior to the lease's expiration, unless the landlord consents. A lease is a contract--it binds both parties. The lease does not take cognizance of your financial situation--that is, the fact that you can't afford the lease has no bearing on your obligations under it. Assuming that landlord is honoring his/her obligations--providing you with the habitable space (and any amenities or facilities) you are paying for--then you would only have the right to terminate the lease early if the lease itself gave you that right; for example, if it had a clause or term stating that you could terminate early on 30 or 60 days' notice. Otherwise, you will be obligated to the end of the lease.

The broken garage door could give you a claim for compensation--or if you do break the lease, an offset for some of the money you'd otherwise owe--but is almost certainly not significant enough to warrant termination. A lack of repair, etc. must essentially render the premises uninhabitable--like major leaks, no heat, or serious mold might--to justify early termination. Otherwise, the most the garage door is probably worth is some proportionate rebate on rent--e.g. if 20% of the value of the home could be considered to be in the garage, you could possible seek a 20% reduction in rent for the time the garage is broken.

You may need to try to negotiate with the landlord; perhaps offer him/her 2 - 3 months of rent upfront or immediately, in exchange for being let out of the rest of the lease. It would be up to the landlord whether or not to take the offer, however.

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