How do I Terminate a Lease Agreement?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 06 February 2020
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There are several different ways to terminate a lease agreement, depending on whether one is the landlord or the tenant, and the circumstances. Landlord-tenant law can get very tricky, and generally tends to side with landlords, so tenants should be particularly careful if they intend to break a lease.

A lease agreement is a contractual obligation to occupy a property for a set period of time, such as a year. The tenant is expected to pay rent, keep the property in good condition, refrain from engaging in illegal activities, and comply with the terms of the lease agreement. In return, the landlord agrees to maintain the property in a habitable condition. Lease agreements can be terminated for a number of reasons.

In some cases, the lease is ending, and the tenant intends to move or the landlord would like the unit vacated. In these instances, formal written notice must be submitted to terminate a lease agreement. The terms of the lease usually require a 30 day notice. For example, a student with a lease which ends on 30 June who is graduating from college and moving somewhere else would submit a notice at least 30 days prior to 30 June indicating that he or she intends to vacate.


In other cases, it is necessary to terminate a lease because of violations. If someone is a tenant and the landlord is violating the agreement by not responding to major problems such as a damaged plumbing system or malfunctioning wiring, the tenant should document the landlord's failure to respond, and if the landlord continues to refuse to address the problem, the tenant can terminate the lease agreement on grounds of non-compliance. This is done by sending a formal written notice to the landlord stating when the tenant will leave, and why.

If a tenant violates the terms of a lease, the landlord can issue a written warning, indicating that the tenant needs to remedy the violation or termination proceedings will be initiated. If the tenant fails to comply, the landlord can terminate a lease agreement by sending a formal written notice to vacate, indicating that the tenant must leave within a set period of time and stating the reason why.

Sometimes, people want to end a lease agreement early because they just want to move. This may be because of a problem the landlord is not responsible for, because the tenant found a better house, because the tenant is leaving the area, or for any number of reasons. In this case, the tenant must break the lease by submitting a written notice. The tenant is legally responsible for the rent on the remaining months of the lease, although the landlord is also obligated to look for a new tenant to fill the remaining months. There may also be a penalty for breaking the lease.

Landlords may occasionally want tenants to vacate for the purpose of conducting repairs or selling a structure. The law in this situation varies. Some regions have very aggressive laws which protect the rights of tenants, forcing the landlord to wait for the end of the lease before terminating it. Others will allow landlords to terminate a lease agreement in these cases, especially if they can demonstrate that needed repairs constitute a safety hazard until they are addressed.

Once a lease has been terminated, the landlord has a set period of time, usually 30 days, to inspect the property and make any necessary repairs. If repairs are needed and they are the responsibility of the tenant, the landlord can deduct the cost of these repairs from the deposit and return the remaining funds. Usually an itemized list with receipts to prove the stated costs is needed to retain funds from a tenant's deposit. It is a good idea for tenants to walk through the property with the landlord after they have vacated to identify any problems and determine who is responsible.

Retaining a lawyer familiar with landlord-tenant law can be a good idea when one is preparing to terminate a lease agreement. The lawyer can make sure that everything is done in compliance with the law, and smooth the process to make it as painless as possible for all parties.


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