Posted in Blog  
  on Aug 11, 2015

What Are the Tenant Rights to Terminate Leases

Just as a landlord has the right to terminate a lease if a tenant is not fulfilling their obligations, a tenant has the right to do the same thing. Landlords are required in almost every jurisdiction to provide a property that is safe and healthy as a rental unit. If this has not been provided and a tenant has given the necessary notification of its condition, then they may have the right to immediately move out and terminate a lease without penalty. Although landlord/tenant laws vary on the reasons why a lease may be terminated and the specific procedures that are required to complete the process, these are the general reasons when tenant rights to terminate lease agreements may be enforced.

1. A Maintenance Request Has Been Left Unattended Despite Notice.

For emergency repairs, a 24 hour response is often required. This 24 hour period begins from the moment a tenant submits a maintenance request in writing. A lack of hot water, a malfunctioning septic pump, or a collapsed roof would all qualify as a 24 hour repair. If the repair request is ignored or not completed in a timely fashion, then a tenant may have the right to terminate the lease immediately. The same is true for regular maintenance requests. Landlords may have 10-30 days to respond to maintenance requests that do not qualify as an emergency. If this does not occur, then it may be considered landlord negligence and allow a tenant to terminate.

2. A Tenant Can Prove Retaliation.

Tenants have the right to request maintenance repairs at any time. They also have the right to hold landlords to all lease stipulations, including advance notifications of entry or inspection. If landlords retaliate because of tenant actions, then this may also give them the right to terminate the lease. Some jurisdictions even provide a route for financial recompense to tenants under these circumstances.

3. The Property Becomes Uninhabitable For Some Reason.

Sometimes tenants may be able to terminate a lease because of their own actions. If a pot is left on a stove and it catches fire, burning down a portion of the home, the tenant may be able to terminate the lease. Landlords, however, would have the right to follow-up for losses experienced that are not covered by renter's insurance and the cost of lost rental income.

4. The Home Has Not Been Equipped Or Inspected For Hazardous Items.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are required in most rental units today. A failure to provide these items may allow a tenant to terminate their lease. Certain inspections for hazardous items, such as radon, may also be required. If they are and they are not performed, then tenants may also have a right to break their lease. This is because the health and safety of the rental unit is directly affected by the lack of inspection or necessary equipment.

5. Outdated Wiring, Plumbing, And Other Essentials May Also Qualify.

A rental unit must be up to current building codes for most leasing agreements to be considered valid. If a tenant suspects that anything within their unit is not up to code, they have the right to call in a building inspection at their own expense to determine the status of their unit. If it is not up to code, then a landlord may be given a specific period of time to rectify the situation and potentially be required to pay for the inspection. If repairs are not made, then the lease can generally be terminated.

6. There Are Certain Active-Duty Military Stipulations That Also Qualify.

If someone is called to active duty in the military and is required to serve outside of the community, then they generally have the right to immediately terminate their lease.

Certain violations of a lease do not always allow for termination. Failing to give notice for an inspection just once, for example, may allow for a small claims court filing, but not be used as cause for the contract to be terminated. Certain overlooked items, however, like a failure to provide external pest control, may allow a tenant to terminate their lease without landlords realizing it is a possibility. Tenants have the right to a have a rental unit that is safe and healthy. Any time this is not provided and repair requests are ignored, then there is the potential to terminate the lease. The security deposit is usually not allowed to be used to then repair the unit, as some landlords may attempt. Make sure all local tenant rights are followed so that should a lease termination occur, the financial consequences to both parties are minimized.


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