Explanation of a Tenant's Rights When Breaking a Lease

A tenant breaking a lease can become a nightmare for a landlord.

Many will choose to make the tenant forfeit their security deposit when this happens, but that may not be a legal remedy.

Tenants can break a lease, leave the rental property in pristine condition that is documented, and expect to have their security deposit returned.

Tenants may also have these additional rights depending on how the landlord/tenant laws are structured in the community.

1. Landlords Must Make An Effort To Re-Rent The Property.

Even though a lease is essentially a contract for a full year's worth of rental payments, breaking a lease typically requires a landlord to find a new renter instead of suing the tenant that breaks their lease early.

A duty to rent is defined differently by jurisdiction, but generally means a landlord must make a reasonable effort to mitigate any damages the former tenant may receive.

2. Tenants May Break The Lease Without Penalty At Times.

Tenants are entitled to a property that is fit and habitable.

If this is not provided, then most jurisdictions consider this action a constructive eviction.

In other words, inaction has caused the tenant to break their lease.

Specific actions typically must be taken for this to occur without penalty to the tenant.

3. Military Members May be Able to Break Their Lease.

In all 50 states, a tenant who enters active military service may break their lease before it ends with proper notice.

Some states allow for health reasons, job relocations, and other life events as well.

This type of situation is typically treated as if the lease had come to its natural conclusion.

Many landlords are entitled to at least one month of rent as damages when a tenant breaks a lease early without any qualifying event.

For tenants that have a large security deposit on file, this usually means at least a portion of their money can come back to them.

If it doesn't, they may be able to take legal action in order to recover it.

It can be difficult to accept the fact that a rental unit must be re-rented with a reasonable effort after a contract has been broken, but it usually must happen.

Tenants may even be able to provide applicants in some jurisdictions to limit this cost even further.

By knowing what the rights of tenants are when breaking a lease, both parties can get the best possible solution from this difficult situation.

Posted on Jul 29, 2015


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