Reader question: Can I break my lease to buy?
So you’ve found the right home but still have five months left on your apartment lease. What should you do?

Arkansas reader Leah King wondered if it was OK to break a lease as long as you notified your landlord you were purchasing a home. We put that question to real-estate attorney Janet Portman, author of “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide”  to see how the law regards this excuse and how you should handle the discussion with your current landlord.

The short answer is a resounding “no.”

“No state has either a court-designated common-law rule or statute that makes it permissible to break a lease simply because you bought a house,” Portman says.

If you think you are going to be looking to buy a house during your lease term, she says you should negotiate upfront with your landlord to let you out of your lease with notice should you find a place.

And if you are already in a lease, you should go straight to your landlord and start negotiating once you’ve found a place.

“Say, ‘I’ve found a place, and we’re going to close in 30 days. Let’s see if we can work this out,'” Portman says.

Most states require landlords to make a good-faith effort to lease your apartment, and a landlord can only hold you responsible for the rent until the next tenant moves in.

Just don’t let a landlord convince you that still owe all of the unpaid rent if another tenant is lined up, Portman says. That would never hold up in court, and it is a trick some unscrupulous landlords use to squeeze more money out of tenants.

The best thing you can do, she says, is approach your landlord and offer to pay a couple of months’ rent to get out of the deal. While there’s a chance they could rent it in 30 days, it might take much longer, and it’s worth the peace of mind for both of you to just settle right away.