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What To Do If You Are Forced to Break a Lease

Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. Oct. 20, 2017

Breaking your lease is not something that should be done lightly. In Pennsylvania, landlord-tenant law is something that is somewhat slanted toward the landlord, so if you do have to break a lease in Pittsburgh, it’s a good idea to talk to someone well-versed in landlord-tenant law, helping you understand your rights when it comes to leaving your apartment. Not making sure that you are acting within your rights and breaking your lease the wrong way can become very costly later.

When Breaking a Lease is Permitted

Among the various tenant rights that exist in Pennsylvania is that of military service. If you have to break your lease because of an active deployment, all that’s needed to establish that your lease can be broken is 30 days’ notice. With notice, your landlord is obliged to end the term of the lease, and you can be charged up to your last month of rent if you have a security deposit on file. Past that nothing needs to be done. If, however, you’re leaving for another reason, rather than break your lease, you may be able to work with a legal term in Pittsburgh PA landlord-tenant law known as “constructive eviction.”

Constructive Eviction

Constructive eviction is a legal concept in Pennsylvania that exists to protect tenants at the most basic level– after all a lease is a contract between both parties. If, for example, your landlord begins shutting off your utilities because he doesn’t like you regardless of whether you are holding up your end of the lease, this is a serious issue– he is effectively forcing you to move illegally. If this is something that can be demonstrated through a pattern of harassment such as uninvited entry into your apartment, changing locks, shutting down utilities or a general pattern of harassment, a case for constructive eviction can probably be established, and will be found against the landlord. However, this is something you should discuss with an attorney rather than assume for yourself.

Pennsylvania Does Not Require Your Landlord to Replace You

Many states oblige the landlord to find a replacement tenant “in good faith” before allowing them to collect on a deposit or attempt to litigate for lost months on a lease. Pennsylvania is not one of those states. There is nothing in the law that obliges a landlord to find a new tenant at all, meaning that if you don’t like your location and want to move, then you can deal with the possibility of all of the unpaid months left in your lease. In short, the smartest thing that you can do in this scenario is try to find a replacement lessee yourself (and ensure the quality of their references) in the hope that the landlord will accept the replacement.

While in many cases that’s more than enough, sometimes a landlord isn’t satisfied. Have someone versed in Pittsburgh landlord-tenant law available to ensure you have the ability to protect yourself as you make your next move. If you find yourself forced to break a lease, consider getting in touch with the landlord-tenant attorneys at Allegheny Attorneys at Law. Our lawyers understand the complexities of the leasing agreement, and will make sure your rights are protected in any landlord-tenant dispute you may encounter. Don’t leave your lease without first contacting the Pittsburgh Landlord Tenant Attorneys at AAAL, and contact us today for your free consultation.