Dear Nicole: What’s the etiquette for breaking a lease?

Dear Nicole,

I’m considering moving for a job, but that would require breaking my current lease. How would you suggest I proceed?

— Movin’ On Up

Congratulations on the new job!

We all enter agreements with every intention of keeping them. But sometimes stuff just comes up where you can’t and most sane people will understand this.

You need to be really straightforward with your landlord, giving them at least one month’s notice. If you are leaving for a job (and not in the middle of the night to avoid paying rent), I think most landlords will be able to work with you. If there is something in your lease that has a financial penalty for breaking the lease, make it clear you will pay it… but also offer to help find someone to take your place. Then proceed to post this apartment on Facebook, Craigslist, and anywhere else you can think of to help fill it.

If your landlords get another renter in the spot, there is no reason they’ll want to charge you for breaking the lease. If they don’t find another renter before you have to leave, though, it’s the right thing to be prepared to pay what you agreed you’d do in this situation.


Dear Nicole,

Lately I’ve been frustrated in my marriage and have been looking up ex-girlfriends on Facebook. I haven’t gotten in touch with any of them, but have looked at pictures of them and their families when I can. For the most part, it seems like a bit of harmless fun. However, with one in particular, I’ve got what may be a serious issue.

We were hot and heavy for each other 15 years ago, when I left to spend what was to be just the summer in Maine. We were to move in together that fall. However, over the course of a couple of months, I realized that it wasn’t a healthy relationship for me to be in, so I broke up with her. She seemed much more upset about it at the time than I thought she should be, but I figured, hey, she really liked me, I guess.

Fast forward to the other night when I found her on Facebook. She has many pictures of her daughter, who is 14. Well, I think the girl looks a heck of a lot like me! Now I’m thinking that my ex might have been pregnant when I broke up with her, and never told me out of spite. But I’m sick inside thinking that I have a daughter somewhere who doesn’t even know me.

I have a family of my own now. Two kids, a wife, a house and everything. I don’t want to risk my current relationship, but I don’t know if I can just stay quiet. Do you think I should contact my ex?

— Troubled in Tremont

Wow, what a revelation that your ex could be the mother of your child you never knew existed. What a tricky situation!

I think when people think about telling the truth, they often think about how much better they’ll feel when this potential truth is revealed. They aren’t thinking of the lives that are about to change with a revelation.

You need to think of your wife, your children, this woman and her child in this. Honestly that has more of a weight than your curiosity if you love them as much as you seem to.

Ask yourself if you are really willing to be a parent to this child in some capacity.

If you have weighed the life-changing factor and the personal feelings factors and decide to proceed with finding out (you may not and that doesn’t make you a bad person in my book), I will say I think the first person you need to talk to is your wife. No need to mention the looking at exes part, just say a picture came up in your newsfeed and you notice your ex’s child looks like you and the age seems to coincide with your breakup years ago. I would get your wife’s blessing before contacting your ex. Otherwise it looks shady to everyone.

Then contact your ex and tell her you’re wondering if the child is yours. If that is the case, say you’d like to be in her life in some way. There is a reason your ex didn’t say anything to you at the time and, as the mother of this girl, it is her call how. You may need to be satisfied with occassional Internet updates, you may find yourself with regular visitations and additional responsibilities… or you may find you are not the father.

If you are going to open that gate and step through, you need to be prepared for all possibilities.


Dear Nicole,

How do I get along with the Republicans in my office who are driving me crazy?

— Think independent

Any strong beliefs are bound to drive anyone nuts and shouldn’t be in the workplace at all. Think if you were constantly trying to convert everyone to Buddhism or vegetarianism how annoyed your co-workers would be. (Nothing against either group of people, but I am just illustrating that people are vocal about strong feelings in regards to things besides politics!) Make sure you are not being annoying with your beliefs at work either before taking action. If you are guilty, try curbing your own behavior first. It may set the tone for the office more than you realized.

Are you guiltless? Then maybe you can decide as a workplace to discourage talk about controversial topics such as politics and religion so everyone can feel comfortable. This is a great thing to bring to human resources because, if you are feeling uncomfortable, chances are other people are too. Let HR decree the ruling and you can act as puzzled but compliant as everyone when the memo is sent.

If you work in a smaller office, this is a tougher row to hoe. I bet there’s one person in particular who seems to instigate these talks when you really think about it. Try talking to this person one on one about your discomfort. Usually if you have direct conversation with people without chastising them in front of others, they can be receptive.

If this conversation makes things worse, you might want to find a less intimidating work environment, as clearly these people don’t care about how they are making you feel.

Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]
Nicole Ouellette

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