Like a lot of things in life, a lease is a double edged sword. On the upside, when you lease an apartment you basically own the place, at least for the term of the lease if you obey all the terms. On the downside, if you have to break your lease, say because a global pandemic snatched away your job, or perhaps more ordinary events like a divorce or your roommate can’t handle their half of the rent, a lease can immediately become an unmanageable financial burden.
Australian software developer and entrepreneur Richard Saville, 29, has a solution to offer. His Break Your Lease app, first introduced in Australia and New Zealand and now being launched in the United States, allows renters to find a qualified person to take over the lease. The app, which has been downloaded by nearly 1 million people, allows users to leave residential and commercial leases, gym memberships and exit a range of loans, including cars, motorbikes, jet skis, and boats, ethically and without residual legal or debt problems.
“I had personal friends wanting to end leases,” said Saville. “And with my background in real estate, I was able to identify the high costs of lengthy rents required until the lease has been filled or run its term. As I was researching ways to help friends get out of leases, I found NO adequate platforms, so I created one.”
Interest in the app boomed with the celebrity endorsement of pop star Sean Paul, a friend of Saville from his days in the entertainment industry. We asked Saville about his eclectic career, the need for the app, and what 2021 looks like for his business as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic.
Your business background is quite varied – real estate, business management. Was that a plan, or did it just play out that way?
My focus on studies after high school were in real estate and property development. After spending a few years gathering management knowledge in the real estate industry, I began Reekko Entertainment, a business specializing in Booking, Agency and Management Services. Through that I met the singer Sean Paul and ended up having access to the biggest names in Hollywood for shows in Australia.
In 2019, I set out to enter into the technology industry as I knew that technology was the new way of the world. I started out thinking on the gaming side of apps but they only trend for 2 to 3 months so I thought I’d like to create a real estate service that would be a service that stayed around for years to come helping people.
Your app is on sale worldwide. Are there legal differences in different countries, or even different locals in the same country, that the app takes into account?
Yes, there were some legalities that we had to change with our terms and conditions and privacy that were approved by Apple when we launched the app. Another difference we came across is that a lot of leases in the US have security deposits that are paid up front, so we had to solve how to advertise the payout fee. Now on the app we have a lease break price and the amount to break the lease as well as the rent per week/month price. Likewise, most leases in Australia are paid weekly, which isn’t common in the US.
How did the pandemic affect your business?
On one side, the pandemic helped us because it created a lot of movement with people who encountered difficult financial situations due to COVID. On the other side, we noticed that during this time, people are hesitant to move as no one actually knows the effects of what’s going to happen in the future.
Is finding someone to take over the lease the key to getting out of a lease?
Yes finding someone to take over the lease is the key to getting out of the lease. When you upload your listing on our app, if someone is interested in taking it over, a message will be sent to you via your profile.
How do landlords figure into arrangements made through Break Your Lease? They still have final say over who gets to lease their property, right?
Landlords still get the final say, but Break Your Lease helps people find qualified people to take over the lease. Once there is a Break Your Lease user interested in taking over a lease, the prospective tenant has to start the real estate application with either the landlord or the property management agency like any other rental application.
How does business look for you in 2021?
With a lot of rental assistance ending soon and life coming back to normal in 2021, we think that we are going to have a lot of movement on the app as people deal with life and financial changes.