In an ideal world, tenants would stay for the whole duration of the lease. Unfortunately, tenants don’t always stay, which forces property owners to find new tenants to fill their units. In this article, we’ll take a look at when tenants can end their lease without breaking their contract. We’ll also tackle what to do when a tenant does break their lease.
What are the Valid Reasons For Ending a Lease Early?
A tenant can end their rental contract early only if their reason is valid. Under these circumstances, the landlord cannot collect a fine from the tenant for terminating the lease contract early. Let’s take a look at the situations where a tenant can lawfully break their lease agreement.
#1 The Tenant Has to Serve in the Military
One of the reasons for ending their lease early is if they’re actively serving in the military, and they’ve been called to relocate or to serve. This is because tenants that are members of the military are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Under the SCRA, tenants that are part of the armed forces, commissioned forces, commissioned corps, etc. can end their lease contract without repercussions. If they’re ordered to relocate for not less than 90 days, they can terminate the lease by handing the landlord a thirty-day notice, along with a copy of the station orders.
#2 The Tenant is a Victim of Sexual Assault or Violence
In most states, landlords must provide a clause in their lease contract to protect victims of domestic violence. In other words, if a tenant was sexually assaulted in the rental unit, they can legally terminate the lease agreement at any time. However, the clause only covers violence committed at least in the past three months. Furthermore, the tenant must provide the landlord or the condominium management provider with a written notice to vacate, as well as any evidence of domestic violence. Once approved, the tenant will have 30 days to move out.
#3 The Rental Unit isn’t Up to Code
Does your South Florida rental property meet the state’s health and safety standards? As a landlord, you are obligated to maintain a habitable rental unit, such as making sure your tenant has access to water, electricity, etc., keeping the condominium’s common areas clean, and conducting repairs. Most importantly, your rental property must meet your state or city’s housing code. If not, the court can grant your tenant ‘constructive eviction’, which means they can move out without having to pay the rest of their rent. With that said, the tenant still has to exhaust other remedies, for example, filing a complaint to the health department. It’s only when the property owner doesn’t address the issue that they can end their lease early.
To ensure that your rental property is up to code, consider hiring a property management company. They’ll be able to help coordinate inspections, hire contractors, and more.
#4 The Landlord Violates the Tenant’s Privacy
The tenant can also end their lease early if their landlord violates their privacy. As a general rule, landlords aren’t allowed to enter the rental unit without their tenant’s consent. In other words, property owners can’t get into the unit even if they legally own it. In most states, landlords must provide the tenant at least 24-hours notice to enter the rental unit for valid reasons. If the landlord enters the unit without the tenant’s knowledge, the tenant can break the lease since this behavior is considered a violation of their privacy.
#5 The Landlord Harasses the Tenant
In rental property management, harassment is when a property owner intimidates a tenant, such as:
- When a landlord shuts off the utilities such as water and power to force the tenant to leave or move out.
- When a landlord refuses to conduct repairs to create uncomfortable conditions for the tenant.
- When a landlord changes the locks without the tenant’s knowledge.
- When a landlord pays the tenant to move out, preventing them from going through the formal eviction process.
- When a landlord threatens the tenant in person (e.g. stopping the tenant from entering the unit) or in writing (e.g. sending emails).
- When a landlord conducts construction work to create a ruckus.
- When a landlord makes obscene remarks to the tenant.
#6 The Rental Unit is Illegal
It’s your responsibility to ensure that you can actually rent out your property. Since rental laws vary by state, it’s critical to review laws prior to listing your property. For instance, if your homeowners’ association (HOA) doesn’t allow rentals but you rent it out anyway, your tenant will end up renting an illegal unit. With that said, your tenant is allowed to end their lease without paying any penalty. You’ll also have to face a hefty fine from your HOA.
A property management company makes sure that you aren’t breaking the law when renting out your unit. Their team of property managers will review all of the relevant laws for you.
What if None of Those Conditions are Present?
Let’s say your tenant simply wants to terminate their lease early. They’re not serving in the military nor are they victims of domestic violence. All they want to do is to move into a new rental unit.
When this happens, you won’t be financially hit. Since a lease agreement is a legal agreement, your tenants are obligated to pay rent for the agreed-upon period, which often ranges from 6 to 24 months. Furthermore, when a tenant terminates their lease early, the property owner can collect a termination fee, but this should be stated in the clause.
However, in most states, landlords need to rerent the unit or find a new tenant. Legally, this is called “mitigating damages”. This is because it wouldn’t be fair for the tenant to continue paying rent while the property is passively vacant. Your tenant has to pay you while you search for a new tenant, but you can’t count on them to pay until the rental period is up. When you finally find a new tenant, your tenant will be in the clear.
Can You Force a Tenant to Stay?
You can’t force a tenant not to terminate their lease agreement early, but you can remind them of their obligation to pay the rent until you find a new tenant to fill the unit. That’s why it’s important to start the tenancy with a clear contract to ensure you’re compensated even when your tenants decide to leave.
Property management is hard on its own, but when you throw tenants into the mix, it can get extremely complicated. Consider hiring a property manager from Luxury Property Care to handle the challenges of leasing and the day-to-day demands of rental property management. Call (561) 944 – 2992 or contact us online for more information.