How to Take Over an Apartment Lease

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If you need to relocate somewhere new before the lease at your current rental is over, a lease takeover might help you avoid the costs that can come with breaking a lease early. Be sure to talk to your landlord about the terms of your lease and follow the appropriate steps. 
Signing onto a year-long lease is a big commitment, and it’s hard to predict what will happen and how your circumstances might change within that time. A new job might necessitate a move, or maybe you found a steal of a housing deal that was more desirable than your current place.
Unfortunately, breaking a lease early could mean costs like losing your security deposit or paying rent for months while you’re no longer living in your rental. One option renters can consider in a situation like this is a lease takeover, which involves transferring the remaining portion of your lease to someone else.
Handling a lease takeover can be time-consuming at best and could have disastrous consequences when handled incorrectly. That’s why Jerry, the super app that helps you find savings on renters and car insurance, is here to give you the rundown on what a lease takeover involves and when it’s worth considering, as well as some tips that can help the process go more smoothly.
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What’s a lease takeover?

A lease takeover or lease transfer involves passing on your lease to a new tenant. 
Unlike subletting, in which a tenant keeps their lease and then rents the space to a subtenant, a lease takeover means you’re handing over all the lease obligations and responsibilities to the new tenant for the remainder of the lease term.
Initiating a lease transfer can be a time-consuming process, so it might not be possible if you need to leave your rental quickly. If you have the time, however, a lease transfer can help you save on the costs that could come with breaking your lease early—like forfeiting your security deposit.

When is a rental lease takeover a good idea?

Whether a lease takeover is a good idea for you depends on your circumstances and the terms and conditions of your lease
Depending on your reason for leaving and landlord-tenant laws where you live, you might be able to break your lease early without consequence. This is often true if your rental unit wasn’t properly maintained, your landlord breached your contract, you’re an active military member who has to move, or you’re in a situation involving domestic violence.
In other cases, breaking your lease early could mean you have to pay a penalty fee, say goodbye to your security deposit, pay your remaining rent anyway, or—in a worst-case scenario—end up in a lawsuit. When this is the case, many people opt to either sublet their apartment or transfer the lease to a new person. 
While subletting comes with a lot of responsibilities, a lease transfer would generally let you off the hook for any obligations—for example, you wouldn’t be on the hook for rent if your sublease didn’t pay. Depending on how much time you have left on your lease, transferring your lease to someone else could end up saving you a lot more money than if you were to simply break your lease.
Pro Tip Lease agreements and landlord-tenant laws can be complicated, so don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel if you need to for the best route to navigate your specific situation. 

How to initiate a lease takeover

Know your lease terms

Review the language of your lease agreement to determine if you’re able to transfer your lease. 
There often will be a clause that directly addresses subletting and/or lease takeovers, as well as what may happen if you break your lease early. If your rental agreement explicitly prohibits lease takeovers, you might be out of luck.
In rental agreements where lease takeovers are allowed, you also may be required to give your landlord a certain amount of notice before a lease transfer can take place. Additionally, it is worth cross-checking the terms of your lease agreement with your local landlord-tenant laws to see whether the terms outlined are actually enforceable.

Talk to your landlord

In most cases, you’ll need your landlord’s approval before transferring the lease to a new person, so talk to them before you take the time to search for a new tenant. 
If your landlord grants you permission to move forward, make sure to get their consent in writing.

Search for a new tenant

Depending on your lease terms, applicable laws, and your landlord’s preference, your landlord might opt to find a new tenant themselves, or you could be the one responsible for finding your replacement. 
In many cases, landlord-tenant laws state your landlord will have a legal obligation to make a “reasonable effort” to find a new tenant. However, “reasonable” doesn’t always translate to “successful,” so even when this is the case, finding a replacement of your own can help move the process along faster.
If you don’t already have someone in mind for your lease takeover, consider posting ads for your rental on relevant websites and social media platforms that share opportunities for either short- or long-term rentals.
In your listing, be upfront about the details of your rental to save time and attract the right candidates early on. Those details should include: 
  • That the rental will involve a lease takeover
  • How much time is left on the lease
  • Important information about the rental itself
  • Income or other requirements to qualify
You can also consider offering certain perks or incentives, like covering all or part of the first month of rent.
If you are responsible for screening tenants, keep in mind the minimum requirements for you to qualify for the rental, like a minimum income or credit score. This will give you the best chance of getting your landlord’s approval for the new tenant. That said, your landlord might prefer to handle credit and/or background checks themselves.
Key Takeaway Talk with your landlord about who will have the responsibility of finding a new tenant. While many landlord-tenant laws require that the landlord fill the space, you may speed the process up by finding someone on your own. 

Create and sign a lease takeover agreement

You’ve found a new tenant to take over your apartment lease! Now it’s time to make the lease takeover official, absolving you of your responsibilities for the apartment—so you’ll want to make sure it’s done right.
Create a document that satisfies the applicable landlord-tenant laws in your state, and get it signed by you, the new tenant, and your landlord. It’s a good idea to make copies for all involved parties. 

The dos and don’ts of an apartment lease takeover

Handling an apartment lease takeover the right way can be tricky. Here are some dos and don’ts to help the process go more smoothly:

When transferring a lease, do:

  • Know your lease terms: The details of your lease agreement, in addition to the landlord-tenant laws in your state, should give you a sense of whether a lease takeover is allowed in your situation, and if it is, how to proceed with it.
  • Get your landlord’s permission in writing: This step can give you some added protection if your landlord initially agrees to a lease takeover, but then, for one reason or another, wants to take back said agreement at a later time.
  • Clean your apartment for the new tenant: This might not always be taken care of by a landlord between a lease transfer. 

When transferring a lease, don’t:

  • Try a lease takeover without your landlord’s permission: Without it, the lease takeover might not be valid, which could leave you on the hook if your new tenant didn’t pay rent or damaged the rental unit.
  • Violate fair housing rules: If you’re responsible for finding a new tenant for your lease takeover, make sure you have an understanding of your local, state, and federal fair housing laws so you can screen tenants the right way.
  • Let the new tenant move in before the lease takeover is official: Even if your circumstances make you feel rushed to move a lease takeover along as quickly as possible, and even if a new tenant seems trustworthy initially, there are all kinds of headache-inducing scenarios that could occur—like the set-up for a squatting situation that still leaves you responsible for rent—if a tenant moves in before the necessary paperwork is squared away. In the long run, going through the proper lease takeover steps will save you time, stress, and money virtually every time.

How to save on renters insurance

Once you’ve taken care of your lease takeover and it’s time to move onto your next home, make sure you get it protected by the right renters or homeowners insurance policy. Jerry can help you make the insurance shopping process quick and easy!
With the Jerry app, it takes less than a minute to enter your information and start comparing customized quotes from some of the nation’s top insurance providers. Once you find the right coverage for you at the right price, we can even help you make the switch to your new policy. 
Jerry users save an average of more than $800 per year on car insurance alone, and you could find additional savings by bundling with home or renters insurance!
Jerry was wonderful! I used it for my auto and renters policies. I trusted it so much that I signed up my homeowners insurance under Jerry as well. All of the agents are amazingly nice and knowledgeable.” —Mary Y.
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FAQs

If the terms of your lease allow and your landlord grants you permission in writing, it’s a good idea for you, the landlord, and the new tenant to draft and sign a lease takeover agreement that satisfies your area’s landlord-tenant laws and makes the lease transfer official.
Whether you can get your security deposit back after letting someone else take over your lease will depend on your lease terms and any applicable landlord-tenant laws, as well as what agreement(s) you come to with your landlord and the new tenant.

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