I am planning to enter into a 12 month lease in California. However, circumstances may arise which require me to move out before the lease ends. I looked at what typically happens with early termination and none of the options sound good:
- If you try to sublet, you have to spend much effort and time finding a tenant. Some contracts prohibit subletting. The landlord can easily hold you hostage by refusing to approve any tenant you find.
- Many early termination clauses are incredibly unfair to the tenant: A common example is that tenant is liable for all the months of lost rent during which the landlord is looking for a new tenant. So if you break the lease on month 1, the landlord could drag his feet and you can be on the hook for 11 months' worth of rent.
- If you simply stop paying rent, the eviction goes on your record and you can't rent a new house.
I'm not really comfortable making a commitment to stay in a place for 12 months, no matter what. All sorts of things can happen in life, nobody can predict what will take place up to a year out. You could lose your job, you could suffer some emergency. It seems a foolish thing to accept such an agreement. However, almost all landlords ask for 12 months so there's not a realistic alternative.
What are my options as a leasee for protecting my family from ruin due to early termination of a lease? Are there any defensive clauses I can request to be included in the contract (that the landlord is actually likely to agree to)? Are there any legal protections I can take advantage of?