Landlords: How to Handle Early Lease Termination
Whether initiated by you or your tenant, early lease termination must follow the terms and conditions laid out in the lease as well as any applicable laws in your state. Work with an attorney to minimize the financial impact.
Learn the Laws that Govern Early Lease Termination
Did you know that if a renter is called for military service the Service Member Civil Relief Act allows them to terminate their lease?
While leases are legally binding agreements, there are a variety of situations that allow both landlords and tenants to terminate a lease early without any financial or legal penalties. For the long-term success of your real-estate business, it’s important that you understand your rights and responsibilities as a landlord.
There are federal and state laws that provide reasons tenants can break a lease early without penalty. In other situations, it may be in a landlord’s best interest to let a tenant out of their lease early even if the tenant is not technically allowed to under the law.
Circumstances that Allow Tenants to Terminate Early
Although tenants have significant rights in the situations outlined below, they still have certain legal obligations, such as providing proper notice, to terminate a lease early without any financial impact.
- Military deployment (must provide proper notice)
- Domestic violence (only allowed in some states)
- Job transfer (only allowed in some states)
- Landlord’s failure to provide a safe and habitable rental unit
- Landlord entering the property unlawfully
Circumstances that Do Not Allow Tenants to Terminate Early
Although there are no laws that let tenants break a lease early for the reasons listed below, if a tenant is in bad shape financially or physically, it may be in your best interest to allow them to break the lease and move on to a new renter, rather than wasting time trying to evict them.
- Job loss
Know that landlords have a duty to mitigate damages by making an honest effort to find a new renter, even if a tenant breaks the lease without any legally permissible reason. Regardless of the specific circumstances you’re dealing with, speaking with a Provider Attorney can help you sort through your options and create a strategy designed to minimize financial damage, reduce stress and avoid litigation.
Generally, landlords can legally terminate a lease early, without penalty, in certain situations.
If a tenant violates the lease or breaks other laws that impact your property, you may be able to terminate the lease early. For example, if a tenant fails to pay rent, allows a dog to live in the unit in violation of the lease, causes excessive damage or starts selling drugs out of your unit, you generally have a right to terminate the lease early. If you give proper notice and the tenant does not fix the problem or leave, you would then have grounds for evicting them.
The other situation that allows landlords to break a lease early involves clauses in the lease. For example, if you decide to sell the property or want to move in to the property, you may be able to terminate the lease early. However, you must have written a clause in the lease addressing these situations or you will not be able to break the lease early without cause.
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In order for early termination to be legally binding, proper notice must be given. The first place to look for the notice requirements is in the lease document. That said, federal and state law often have specific notice requirements that landlords must follow.
- Generally, even if a tenant has a legally valid reason to terminate a lease early, they must provide at least 30 days written notice. The specific timeframe and format of the notice required may be indicated by a federal or state law and/or the lease.
- Landlords can send a tenant an unconditional quit notice that requires them to leave very quickly (or immediately) if the tenant has repeatedly violated a lease clause, damaged the property or for other specified reasons. Every state has their notice laws to follow.
- When you have a tenant under a periodic tenancy (i.e. month to more or week to week), depending on the state, you will generally need to provide either a 30- day or 60-day notice of termination.
The notices referenced above are not a complete list. In order to select the right type of notice for your situation and make sure it’s drafted so as to be legally binding, it’s a good idea get the help of a knowledgeable attorney. You’ll increase the speed to resolution while decreasing your stress level.
An attorney may charge $150 - $400 an hour for even basic advice. As such, most people don’t think of calling an attorney when they have legal questions or need someone to look over a one page 30-day notice of termination and provide feedback. That could be a mistake.
First, using a standard termination notices downloaded from the internet without having an attorney make sure the document meets the legal requirements in your state can have significant legal and financial implications. Second, LegalShield makes having access to legal assistance from a provider law firm to protect your real estate investments easy and affordable.
Legalshield has flipped the script. There is no longer any reason to try to navigate the challenges of managing rental properties without the help of an experienced attorney from your provider firm.
Our most popular legal plan for landlords is only $39.70 per month and allows you to have your attorney review your lease (or any other documents up to 15 pages each) and get unlimited legal consultation on all aspects of your rental business. Furthermore, your provider attorney is available to make calls and write letters on your behalf to help negotiate lease terms or resolve an early termination dispute with a tenant.