Is There a Lawyer in the House? Breaking a contract--advice needed.

I’m in a bit of a predicament and I need some input, please. I realize that even if you are a lawyer, your advice is simply your opinion, not something that would stand in court.

I signed a year lease in July and I want to get out of it. I’m a massage therapist renting space in a co-op type place. I’m not making any money. In fact, I’ve lost $1200 so far. I’d like to terminate my lease, but I don’t know if/how to do it legally. I’m meeting with the owner tomorrow (Wednesday).

The contract stated only that I would pay $X/monthly for 12 months between period A and period B. A security deposit wasn’t required.

I know that if I couldn’t pay rent on my apartment, I would forfeit my security deposit and that would be the end of it. Would this type of agreement work the same way?

I’m kind of desperate because the owner’s spouse is a lawyer, and I really don’t know what I’m up against. Thank you for all of your help!

I am not a lawyer and I can’t tell you how (or if) you can break your lease. A lot probably depends upon the actual wording of the contract itself. But in practical terms, how hard would it be for the owner to lease the space to someone else? If he’s got a waiting list, he might be willing to let you go without a penalty. If you approach him as one human being to another and say your business hasn’t worked out, but you’ll pay the rent until another tenant moves in, maybe he’d be satisfied with that. There’s always time to get legalistic if amicable negotiation fails. Once you say something like “I’m not paying!” he has to say something like “Oh yes you will!” and it’s all downhill from there.

Two more thoughts:

1/ Can you sublet the space to someone else? Maybe you’ll be stuck paying out the lease, but you would collect the rent from a new tenant.

2/ Most businesses take a while to get established. You started this place in July and at the end of August you’re packing it in? A personal services business depends a lot on word of mouth and repeat customers. Could you do more advertising, have a sale, get on referral lists, stay open longer hours (maybe with a partner), etc.? How do other people in your line of work succeed? Maybe you could ask the landlord to give you a discount for a couple months with the understanding that you’ll pay him back with interest when things turn around. (I’m assuming that this is a legitimate business. Sometimes “massage therapist” get misinterpreted.)

I suppose I should add, “I can’t pay the rent. I’m tapped out.” (Anyone else hear Snidely Whiplash in the background saying, “you must pay the rent!”?)

I am going to talk to the owner, health care practitioner to health care practitioner. I’m hoping it doesn’t get ugly. I suppose I’m just planning for the worst.

If you signed the lease, you’re on the hook for the whole year. (It’d be the same for an apartment lease. If the lessor wants to chase you, he’s not limited to the security deposit.)

There’s been some good advice about trying to sublet it or trying to work it out with the lessor. If you reach an agreement, get it in writing.

Finally, in most states, the lessor has a duty to try to release the unit to mitigate (lessen) his damages.
Good luck!