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My college closed and I want to move home and not pay for the apartment. Can I?

Produced by Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School
Created May 5, 2020

It depends on your lease and your landlord.

Tenant at will

If you pay month-to-month, and do not have a lease, you are a “tenant at will.” You can “end your tenancy” by telling your landlord you are leaving. You must tell them one “full rental period” before your rent is due.  One “full rental period” is usually 30 days. See If you do not have a lease.

Lease

If you have a lease with your landlord that has an end date, you have to break your lease.

Read your lease. See if it talks about “emergency” or “unexpected” situations. That section may let you break your lease.

If you do not see anything about “emergency” or “unexpected” situations in your lease,  ask your landlord if you can:

  • “Surrender,” or
  • Sublet your unit.

Surrendering means breaking the lease early, but with your landlord’s permission.

Sublet means you can rent your unit to someone else. 

If you move out and you do not “surrender” or sublet, your landlord may sue you for the rest of the rent you owe under the lease.

If your landlord sues you, you may need to return to Massachusetts.

If your lease says that the landlord can “recover attorney’s fees” or “court costs,” you could owe the landlord more than your rent.

It is possible that the Housing Court will allow people who broke their leases because of COVID-19 some protections. But there is no rule now that protects people who break their lease.

 

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