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Can Tenants Break the Lease? A Guide For Landlords

Can Tenants Break the Lease? A Guide For Landlords

When your tenant signs a lease, they are agreeing to specific rental terms. One of the most important commitments that they make is to stay in the unit for the entire duration of the lease. Most tenants pay monthly rent until they resign the lease or find another living situation. However, what happens when the tenant breaks the lease and leaves early?

When a prospective tenant fills out a rental application, you can screen then for financial stability and a clean record. But you can’t predict whether they are going to stick with the lease. This guide can help you properly react to these incidents and protect your assets from the start.

When can tenants legally break the lease?

It’s important to remember that every state has different laws regarding evictions and leases. Be sure to research tenant-landlord laws in your state and have a lawyer to consult in these situations.

A lawyer can tell you that tenants are legally allowed to break a lease early when they are in active military service, for example. In these cases, tenants are permitted to leave after giving notice to a landlord. Some states allow tenants to break a lease early to relocate for a job or to care for a sick family member. Tenants may also be permitted to leave without repercussions when they are a victim of domestic violence.

Landlords are required to provide a safe and habitable space for their tenants to live in, but tenants may be able to leave if the unit is no longer habitable. This is generally true after the tenant has brought up maintenance needs to you in the past. For example, if the rental property does not have functioning heat, and you ignored the tenant’s maintenance request, they could be legally entitled to break the lease and find a suitable home.

What should landlords do when a tenant vacates?

When a tenant breaks a lease outside of legal parameters, it can leave you feeling frustrated. However, there are certain steps you can take. After consulting a lawyer, the first step you should take is to actively find a new tenant for the property. In most states, the tenant who broke the lease may be obligated to pay rent while the unit is vacant, as long as the landlord is looking for and screening tenants.

There are some states that hold a tenant responsible for the whole lease term and don’t require the landlord to search for a new tenant. If the tenant does not pay the money due as requested, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit. Your lawyer can help you collect the proper documentation to successfully prove your case in court.

How can landlords protect themselves?

The best step you can take to prepare for a tenant breaking lease is to have a clear lease, to begin with. Your lease agreement should clearly outline what the penalties will be for leaving a lease early. For example, you might require a tenant to pay an abandonment fee or cover the rent for the duration of the lease. You can also require your tenant to notify you when they need to break the lease early, so you can assess whether they are legally protected.

When you write up the abandonment clause in the lease, make sure that a lawyer assesses it thoroughly. They will point out whether you are in violation of state laws before a tenant signs.  By clearly outlining an abandonment clause in your lease and knowing your local laws, you can react appropriately when a tenant breaks the lease.

Open communication can also help control this risk. Encourage your tenants to check in with you frequently, so you won’t be met with any surprises when they leave the property.

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