What to Do About an Apartment Lease When Buying a Home

You May Have Options Other Than Breaking Your Lease

Model house on U.S. currency
Diane Macdonald/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Many people happily sign a lease for an apartment, then months or years later decide they want to own their home. While there's nothing wrong with that, many renters in this situation worry about coordinating the end of their lease term with the beginning of their new occupancy.

That's understandable. On the one hand, you don't want to owe a bundle to your landlord for ​breaking your lease. On the other hand, you don't want to let your lease expire long before you've closed the deal on your new home and are ready to move.​

Many renters who want to buy a home feel as if they're in a bind because they assume they have only two options when it comes to their apartment lease: renew the lease for another year, or don't renew it at all and just let the lease expire. But there may be other options available to you in this situation.

Ask Your Landlord About Alternative Leasing Options

Here are two options that offer you greater flexibility and peace of mind, letting you stay in your apartment until you're ready to move, and allowing you to vacate your rental with little, if any, penalty.

  1. Switch to a month-to-month rental agreement. Rather than renew your lease, ask your landlord whether you can continue to occupy your apartment on a month-to-month basis. This offers the ultimate in flexibility, and it's ideal if you're confident you'll move in a matter of months. To end a month-to-month rental agreement, you typically just give 30 days' notice to your landlord, and then you leave without a penalty. The only risk to keep in mind is that your landlord also gains the right to end the arrangement with 30 days' notice. Read more about a fixed-term lease versus a month-to-month rental agreement.
  1. Renew your lease for a shorter term. Rather than renew your lease for another year, see if your landlord would agree to a shorter term, such as six or even three months. If you renew for three months, for example, and still haven't purchased a home, you can then renew for another three months.

When Other Options Aren't Available

It's possible that your landlord won't agree to either of these options.

Also, if your lease is several months away from expiring -- for example, you just signed a one-year lease a few weeks ago -- then chances are you'll be ready to move to your new home before your lease expires, which means you wouldn't have the opportunity to try these options. If this is your situation, then your goal should be to break your ​lease paying minimal penalties, if any at all. Read helpful tips on how to do this.