Your rental agreement, a legally binding contract between you and your landlord, can’t be broken by your landlord unless you have breached it in some way. Understanding why the landlord has broken the agreement, and the steps you need to take, will help minimize any damage to your rental history.
Why Landlords Break Rental Agreements
Landlords break rental agreements when they believe that your tenancy is problematic. Their reasons will vary, but generally they revolve around issues which are non-negotiable. Any action that could create problems for your landlord or neighbors can cause your landlord to terminate your rental agreement.
Non-Payment of Rent
The most common reason your landlord will break your rental agreement is non-payment of rent. In this case, your landlord will serve you with a formal notice stating that your rent is overdue. If you don’t pay it, you will face eviction. Some states have an expedited process for evicting tenants who are behind in their rent. Check your state’s laws to anticipate how much time you have to act.
Typically, the notice will give you a week to pay the overdue rent. If you fail to pay within that time frame, your landlord will begin eviction proceedings. Unless you absolutely cannot pay your rent, it is advisable to pay the rent as soon as possible to avoid eviction.
Violations of Rental Agreement Terms
The second most common reason your landlord will break your rental agreement is for violation of one of the terms of the agreement. An example would be keeping a dog in an apartment that prohibits pets. Other examples of violations involve safety or health-related issues such as not keeping the apartment clean or dealing drugs.
As with non-payment of rent, your landlord will give you written notice stating the nature of the violation. Unless you’ve had a history of similar violations, your landlord should give you an opportunity to correct the problem.
When violations involve the safety of other tenants, your landlord will want you to leave. For all other matters, try working with your landlord to correct the situation. Avoid ending an apartment rental agreement by having the landlord evict you due to negative actions on your part. An eviction will tarnish your rental history, making it more difficult for you to rent apartments in the future.
Disputing Your Landlord’s Decision to Break the Lease
At times, you may believe that your landlord is wrong to break the lease. If you can’t work things out and you want to protect your reputation, rental history and credit rating, consider filing a counter-claim. Doing so may stop the eviction proceedings or allow you to prevail.
You may have grounds for your counter-claim under your state’s consumer protection laws, particularly if you can prove that your landlord’s decision to evict you is retaliatory. You may also have a claim if your landlord failed to maintain the property in accordance with your state’s housing codes. Before taking any action, check your state’s laws, and if you decide to proceed, contact a lawyer who specializes in evictions to assist you.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.