Terminating a Lease Agreement

What are the legal reasons for terminating a lease agreement? Whether you have a fixed term or month to month lease, learn how to terminate a lease agreement today.

RELATED: Terminating a Lease for a Month to Month or Verbal Tenancy

Terminating a Fixed Term Lease Agreement Early

Scenario 1: The Tenant Follows the Rules and Doesn't Cause Problems

If you have a tenant who plays by the rules, you cannot terminate a fixed term lease prematurely unless he or she agrees to do so as well.

If the tenant is not agreeable, then you can try to offer a deal sweetener such paying a lease termination fee or helping the tenant to look for similar rental properties in the area.

If both parties agree to end the lease early, you can do so by a process known as a surrender of tenancy. A surrender of tenancy can be express (using a written lease termination agreement) or implicit (the tenant removing his or her possessions from the property and the landlord renting out the property to new tenant). No paperwork is required for an implicit surrender.

It's important to note that a landlord must never force a tenant out by threats, violence or cutting essential services (electricity and water). This constitutes a serious offense and the landlord can be slapped with heavy fines and even jail time.

Scenario 2: The Tenant is Unable or Unwilling to Pay the Rent

Rent payments from tenants are the lifeline of every rental property. If your tenant is not paying the rent, then you have an ample reason for terminating a lease early. You should replace him or her with a new renter as soon as possible to minimize your losses.

The first step is of terminating a lease is to send your tenant a pay or quit notice. This gives the tenant a final deadline to pay up any overdue rent. This time limit is typically 3 days but can extend up to 14 days depending on your local landlord tenant laws.

If the tenant doesn't pay up by the deadline, you can file a unlawful detainer action in your local court house. This formally begins the legal process of evicting the tenant. The court will issue a summons to your tenant and fix a date for him or her to turn up for a court hearing.

Since tenant eviction can be a draggy and messy affair, we highly recommend that you Click here to learn how to evict a tenant step by step.

Scenario 3: The Tenant Causes Property Damage or Violates Lease Terms

If the tenant (or the tenant's occupants and guests) causes property damages due to abuse or negligence... and refuses to pay for the repairs, then you can apply for eviction to terminate the lease agreement early.

The same goes for any major lease violations such subletting without the landlord's consent or using the property for illegal purposes - Click here for our advice on how to deal with difficult tenant.

The process for evicting the tenant and terminating a lease agreement early is largely similar to steps listed in Scenario 2 above. The main difference here is the eviction notice - Instead of a pay or quit notice, you will have to send the tenant a perform or vacate notice.

If your tenant moves out of the property after receiving your notice to quit or the court summons, you can halt the eviction process and begin looking for new renters. Any rent or repair fees owed can be recovered by making security deposit deductions.

Breaking a Lease