Skip to main content
ENDING A LEASE AGREEMENT

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.

statue in a library

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.

Early Termination by a Tenant

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
  • Divorce
  • Illness

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. 

loading a moving truck
moving boxes

Early Termination by a Landlord

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. 

LegalShield’s small business legal plans give you the legal help you need to deal with early lease termination for a price any landlord can afford. 

Drafting a Notice to Terminate a Tenancy

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-month 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.

close up of a lease
a person counting money

The Maximum Security Deposit a Landlord Can Require

You may be wondering how much of a security deposit the law allows your landlord to require in the first place. The answer depends upon the state in which the rental unit is located. Here are a few examples:

  • Some states limit security deposits to an amount equal to one month’s rent.
  • California limits deposits to 2 month’s rent, unless the rental is furnished, in which case the deposit can be up to 3 months.
  • Some states have no limit on the amount of a security deposit a landlord can request.
  • Cities and counties might have different security deposit laws you need to check, especially if the unit is rent controlled.

If you’re about to sign a lease and have concerns about the security deposit required or questions about any other aspect of the agreement, it’s a good idea to get legal advice. When you join LegalShield, you can be on the phone with an experienced lawyer within 4 hours after your membership is approved. Your membership gets you unlimited legal advice by phone, the ability to submit your lease, help from an attorney to negotiate your lease terms, and more. 

Have an Attorney Help You with Early Termination Issues

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 notice 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.   

woman smiling

How It Works

Get support in three easy steps. It’s that simple.

1
Become A Member

Sign up for LegalShield, and then head to accounts.legalshield.com to set up your account.

Get Legal Help image
2
Download LegalShield App

Download our app, it's like having a lawyer in your pocket. Our customer care agents are available 24/7 for covered legal emergencies.

Download LegalShield App image
3
Get Legal Help

From the app you can choose to call your law firm, submit a traffic ticket, start your Will or other documents, request emergency legal help, and more. It’s that easy.

Become A Member phone image

See What Our Customers Say

  • The lawyer who spoke with me was extremely helpful. She answered all my questions, made sure I knew where to complete the Will forms online, and called me to confirm information to complete our forms. The completed Will, Power of Attorney, and Directive to Physicians were completed and back to us within a week. We were pleased and would highly recommend your services.
    Sharon H.
    Texas Member
    The lawyer who spoke with me was extremely helpful. She answered all my que..
    Read More
    I have had an above and beyond experience each time I've reached out to the support team. I ask questions and I get great feed back and informative information that has helped me with my situation that I would not have know if it wasn't for the attorney informing me of my rights. Thank you and keep doing a wonderful job.
    Renita L.
    Missouri Member
    I have had an above and beyond experience each time I've reached out to the..
    Read More
    They called me back before the allotted time frame and looked over the documentation quickly as well. I have been able to handle what I needed to on my end because they have been so thorough.
    Ayana
    Ohio Member
    They called me back before the allotted time frame and looked over the docu..
    Read More
Speak to an Attorney Before Ending a Lease
LegalShield offers the most affordable way to have an attorney on your side.

Plan

Price

Region:loading