Ready to buy but stuck in a lease?

The opportunity cost of delaying homeownership can be substantial. When you know you want to buy sooner than your lease ends, you may feel stuck. But you’re not!

Here are some options when you’re a renter who is ready to buy and know it’s not worth the wait.


Steps to Ending a Lease Agreement
Start with the contract.

Rental agreements vary—some specify a buyout clause or flat termination fee, others may allow you to sublet. While we aren’t a law firm and can’t give official legal advice, if you aren’t fluent in legalese, we’re happy to go through the agreement with you. 

Talk to your landlord early.

Let them know your homebuying goals as soon as possible. This will give your landlord more time to fill the space, limiting your financial liability and making them more willing to work in your favor.

Depending on how your landlord wants to proceed, it may be wise to draft and sign an early-termination agreement to protect yourself legally and to give your landlord a predictable move-out plan.

Provide a qualified replacement.

Under Washington state law, you are only obligated to pay rent until the unit is filled. By delivering a qualified tenant (someone with good credit and references) directly to your landlord, you minimize vacancy, and your financial obligation.

Some landlords may also allow you to unofficially sublet the space. Reach out to friends and family for room-seekers, or post on sites like Craigslist. Given Seattle’s current housing crunch, finding a replacement shouldn’t be difficult!

Other things to consider
When am I legally justified in breaking a lease?

In Washington State, you can legally break a lease if:

  1. You start military service.
  2. The apartment violates Washington Health Code
  3. You are a victim of domestic violence or landlord harassment.
  4. Your neighbor threatens you with a deadly weapon & your landlord doesn’t evict them.
Will my credit be impacted?

As long as you meet your financial obligations as a renter, your credit won’t take a hit.

What if I have to rent in the future? Will my rental history show that I’ve broken a lease?

Ideally, as a new homeowner, you’ll never have to fill out a rental app again! That said—it’s best to leave on good terms with your landlord, which is why transparent communication is key. Plus, you can always let your future landlords know that you were buying a house and had to end your lease agreement early.

Summing it up

If you are stuck in a lease and looking to buy, reach out! We’re happy to look at your contract and help negotiate with your landlord.

Up next: If you are in a lease, it’s never too early to start the homebuying process!

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