3 Ways to Handle a Tenant Breaking Their Lease

You end up in the worst-case scenario for a landlord. Your tenant is breaking one or more lease clauses, and you have no choice but to act decisively. You have a business to run, and dealing with lease breaches is a necessary part of it. How you handle your tenant breaking the lease will depend on how they broke the lease, whether a cure is available for the breach and whether the tenant has already left the property.

Breaking Lease Clauses
Your lease agreement has a number of clauses included that the tenant must legally follow. For example, most tenants must only occupy the property with the people named on the lease and authorized tenants, not allow pets on the premises, honor the rental-payment date and only have guests for as long as the lease specifies. The lease agreement also covers acceptable use of the property so that you don't deal with a tenant trying to run a full-scale business out of your residential-zoned property.

When a tenant breaks a lease clause, talk to the tenant and inform them of the clause that they've broken. Give them the opportunity to fix the issue, whether it's removing either a guest who stayed too long or a pet that can't legally stay on the property. If the tenant cures the default, then they've fixed the lease breach so that you don't need to take further action. In some cases, the broken-lease clause is severe, such as conducting criminal activity on the property. You may need to go directly to court to protect your interest in the property and ensure its safety.

Tenants Who Leave Before the Lease Term Ends
A typical lease is one year, but not all tenants choose to stay that long. Your lease agreement should explain exactly what happens if the tenant chooses to leave before the lease is up; that puts you in the unexpected position of having to find another tenant without notice. A common lease clause includes a penalty for breaking the lease or the forfeiture of the security deposit. You need a strong disincentive in place so that there's a consequence if the tenant decides to leave before their lease term is up. You may choose to reduce this penalty if they give you a certain amount of notice before leaving, which allows you sufficient time to find replacement tenants before your original tenant leaves the property.

When is the Time to File in Court?
If your tenant is breaking the rental-payment lease clause or has broken the lease duration without paying the penalty, you may need to take the tenant to court to get your payment. A tenant who is not paying rent is subject to eviction if they don't catch up with payments or otherwise negotiate with you. Learn more about when you have the right to evict tenants here.

If a tenant leaves the property early and doesn't give you the penalty, you may need to go to court and file a civil suit to recover the money that the tenant owes you. Consider how much the tenant owes you before going to court because civil-court claims do take time and money to process. Eviction and other landlord-legal actions are generally streamlined legal proceedings, but that doesn't mean they can't get messy and complicated if you are inexperienced in these matters.

POSTED December 23 2014 12:10 PM

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