It’s not impossible to break a lease in
Oregon, but it’s only legally protected under certain circumstances. If you need to get out of your rental commitment early, it’s important to understand the housing regulation in this state.
When you commit to a lease agreement, you agree to pay rent for a set period of time. But sometimes life circumstances get in the way. Perhaps you lost your job and you’re unable to pay rent. Perhaps your income increased and you’re ready to stop renting and buy something instead.
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When is breaking a lease legal in Oregon?
In general, if you break a lease early in Oregon you must pay a penalty fee according to the guidelines in your lease agreement. This fee is usually equal to two months’ rent.
However, there are a few exceptions where you can legally break your lease early without any consequences:
- Active military members who are being relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station can break a lease legally with 30 days’ notice if they qualify under theServicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).
- Unsafe living conditions are a legally valid reason to break a lease in Oregon, including but not limited to poor weather protection, faulty plumbing, and unsanitary grounds. You must first give proper notice to the landlord with the chance to make repairs—this is called constructive eviction.
- Landlord harassment and privacy violations are legal grounds to break a lease. Landlords must giveproper noticebefore entering your residence for an inspection or otherwise.
- Violations to the lease agreement are legal grounds to break your lease. Read your agreement carefully to understand whether the landlord has violated your agreement. If so, you can notify your landlord in writing that your lease will terminate if the breach is not remedied.
- Domestic violence and sexual assault victims have protection for breaking a lease under Oregon state law. You will need averification statementsigned by both the tenant and a qualified third party.
If you need help understanding your options, start by learning about the
Oregon Fair Housing Act.
What are the penalties for breaking a lease in Oregon?
If you qualify under one of the causes described above, you can legally break a lease with no penalty in Oregon.
Otherwise, you could face financial penalties, continued responsibility for paying rent, or even a lawsuit if your landlord goes to small claims court.
Let’s consider the fees associated with breaking a lease unlawfully. Your lease agreement may set out a specific early release penalty, usually equal to two months’ rent. In addition, you may be required to pay:
- The entire rent remaining on the lease until a new tenant is found
- Any costs (like advertising fees) associated with finding a replacement tenant
- The difference between the new tenant’s monthly rent and your old rent, if the landlord is forced to lower the rate
Here are some other worst-case scenario consequences for breaking a lease in Oregon:
- You get sued
- Your credit score goes down due to unpaid fees, if your landlord uses a collection agency to chase down your debt
- You struggle to rent another apartment due to a bad reference from your previous landlord
If you can find a suitable tenant to replace you, some landlords will be amenable to lease cancellations with no penalty.
The best strategy is to have an open and honest conversation with your landlord as soon as possible about your situation.
How to break a lease without a penalty in Oregon
To break a lease legally in Oregon, you must follow strict guidelines for giving notice.
- For a fixed end date yearly lease, you must provide at least 60 days’ written notice
- For a month-to-month lease, you must provide at least 30 days’ written notice (or 60 day’s notice if you’ve lived there for more than one year)
Your written notice should include specific information about breaking the lease. Make it clear that it’s a necessity and provide evidence, like a letter from your employer.
Deliver the notice according to your landlord’s communication preferences, which are often outlined in the lease agreement. If you can’t find anything, consider delivering the notice by mail or in person.
You can help your landlord look for a replacement tenant—although landlords have no obligation to let unqualified tenants out of a lease early. A subletter could be a good temporary solution if it’s allowed by your lease agreement.
As a last resort, offer to forego your security deposit to avoid breakage fees.
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Can I break my lease due to COVID in Oregon?
Possibly yes! Here’s what the
Oregon Eviction Moratoriumsays: “Until July 1, 2022, a tenant can avoid termination and eviction for nonpayment of monthly rent if they have applied for emergency rental assistance and have provided documentation of their application to their landlord.
Does breaking a lease affect your credit?
Not necessarily. So long as you immediately pay the associated fees, your credit score should not be affected by breaking a lease.