Q: We are currently in the middle of a one-year lease on an apartment. We’ve been looking for a house and found a nice property in a good neighborhood.

We’d like to make an offer, but to do that, we need to terminate our lease. The owner, our landlord, wants to charge us two months’ rent to break the lease plus other fees. The total amount he wants to charge us is $2,400. Our monthly rent is only $500.

Is there a law that states that we can waive the termination fee if we’re buying a house?

A: Unless you wrote that into your lease agreement, the landlord is not required to release you from your lease.

One of the biggest mistakes first-time buyers make is to sign a year lease for a rental property and then go out and buy a house. What happens is that you typically wind up paying rent and mortgage — which most first-time buyers cannot afford to do.

If you want your landlord to let you out of your lease early, find someone to take over your lease. Your landlord will need to approve the tenant you find and will probably pull a credit history and score on that person, so make sure he or she is really a fine, upstanding citizen who really wants the rental unit.

Otherwise, you may get stuck with the bill.

Published: Dec 10, 2004