Can A Tenant Leave a Property Before The Lease Agreement Expires?
Generally not without a penalty but there are some caveats.
- Most lease agreements do not permit tenants to leave the property before a lease expires.
- If a property is uninhabitable then a tenant is justified to leave the property early.
- Victims of domestic violence and abuse can end their leases early.
- The landlord can also consent to the termination of the lease.
- The lease may permit the early termination of leases.
Most Leases Do not Permit Tenants To Leave Before The Lease Expires
Some tenants (or landlords) are under the impression that they can unilaterally modify the terms of a written lease agreement because of how they feel. For example, a landlord may feel they can ask a tenant to leave the property even though they are only 1 month into their 2 year lease. But that’s now how contract law works. Contract law functions based on what’s written in the contract not on our fleeting feelings. So the law will function based on what is written in the lease. So if the lease says the term is for 2 years, then the term is for 2 years. For that reason tenants generally cannot leave before the expiration of the lease term. Be sure to check your lease agreement to see if there are any special terms or clauses that permit the early termination of the lease by a tenant without penalty. Although they are rare, it’s possible.
If a Property Is Uninhabitable, Then a Tenant is Justified in Leaving The Property Early
If the property is uninhabitable, destroyed, or condemned, and not to the fault of the tenant, then the tenant can very well be justified in ending the lease early. For example if a tenant does not have access to heat during a frigid winter season then they may be justified to leave the property early. As a general rule a tenants first line of defense is to file a rent escrow action to pressure the landlord to fix the issues with the property. If the issues cannot be fixed, then the Judge may order the termination of the lease. That said, some tenants are in situations so dire that they may be justified in abandoning the property due to how bad the situation is that they were in. The legal term for voluntarily leaving because the conditions were extremely unhealthy is “constructive eviction.” That means that the landlord should be treated as if they illegally evicted the tenant due to their failure.
Victims of Domestic Violence or Abuse Can End Their Leases Early
Victims of domestic violence or abuse can end their leases early. They are required to give their landlords a copy of a protective order, a peace order, or a report from a qualified third party such as a medical professional or social worker. They can give their landlord up to 30 days notice and are required to pay the rent until their vacate date. If the tenant does not leave after the vacate date then the landlord can sue the tenant for holding over or continue the remaining lease.
The Landlord Can Consent To The Early Termination of The Lease
Landlords can always consent to let the tenants out of the lease early. Modifications to the termination of leases should always be in writing. If it’s oral the other party can deny the modification was made, and are in a stronger legal position due to the statute of frauds requiring legal contracts to be in writing. So both parties should protect themselves by making sure their modifications to the lease terms are in writing.
The Lease Can Be Terminated Early By The Tenant If The Lease Terms Permit It
Lastly, a lease term may be terminated early be a tenant if the lease terms allow for it. Most written lease agreements do not allow tenants to terminate leases early. Some may allow for it if a tenant agrees to pay a penalty. Be sure to check your lease terms to see if this is allowed.
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