Cancelling a Rental Lease Agreement Step by Step

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A rental lease can be terminated either by the landlord or tenant for many reasons, including when a new tenant rents the apartment or if you and your landlord agree to end the agreement. You have to follow a process, however, if you want to avoid a lawsuit. Here are the steps to take when cancelling a rental lease agreement.

Step 1 –  Make Sure You Have a Legal Basis

A rental lease agreement is a legally enforceable contract. You can’t just break it for any reason. There must be a legal basis for cancelling your agreement, otherwise you’ll lose your deposit and you could end up paying a lot of money to your landlord in court. If you want to cancel your lease, read the rental agreement thoroughly and find the clause in it that allows you to get out of the lease without being the one that breaks it in the first place. If you’re not sure, you should research the issue or consult with a lawyer if you would owe more than $500 in damages. If you don’t have a legal basis, you can expect to pay for canceling the agreement, with your security deposit plus more money if your landlord takes you to court.

Step 2 – Write a Notice of Cancellation

Once you’ve determined that you have a legal basis for terminating your lease, send a notice to your landlord using snail mail. Do not send an email, as this will not hold up in court. The notice should include:

  • Your name and address
  • Your landlord’s name and address
  • Date that you’re vacating the premises
  • Reason for cancellation
  • Detail any relevant circumstances (if appropriate)

Once you’ve written the notice, send it to the landlord via Certified Receipt Requested through the post office. This requires the landlord to sign a receipt before he can receive the notice, which gives you documentation that he did receive your notice. If you end up in court, it’s your proof that you sent it.

Step 3 –  Keep Good Records

You can take all the proper steps and still be liable if you don’t keep good records. If you anticipate a legal response from your landlord (and even if you don’t), you need to photocopy and otherwise document everything relating to cancelling your rental lease. You should take pictures, write summaries of phone calls made, record phone calls (make sure you let them know that you’re doing so), get affidavits where appropriate and don’t lose that certified return receipt.

Step 4 – Reach an Agreement with Your Landlord

In some cases, it’s in your landlord’s best interest to agree to cancel your agreement. Is that an option in your situation? If the situation lends itself to a mutual agreement to cancel your rental lease, then all you’ll need to do is sign an agreement with your landlord to part ways. You can write a Release from Lease Agreement that should include the following:

  • Your name and address
  • Your landlord’s name and address
  • A sentence or two stating your mutual agreement to cancel the lease
  • A sentence or two detailing what’s to happen with the security deposit and any prepaid rent
  • A sentence stating that neither party will bring a lawsuit

Sign two copies, because you’ll want to keep an original. Keep your copy in a safe place.

Cancelling a rental lease agreement is necessary from time to time and is expected by many landlords. However, you have to take the right precautions to protect yourself legally. Otherwise, you can end up paying a lot of money for an apartment long after you’ve left it.


2 Responses to “Cancelling a Rental Lease Agreement Step by Step”

  1. November 29, 2010 at 4:43 am, alex conor said:

    i had to leave room i rented because a roommate was trying to steal my suv as well as the same roomate was smoking crack in the room next to mine and i had health reaction to it. i left after only living there for 6 days or so. do i have to continue to pay for rental lease of 6 months? he is still telling me that i have to pay rent and is keeping my 575.00 deposite. please help me!


  2. October 02, 2016 at 3:18 pm, LaToscha Leslie said:

    I moved into my property on July 1,2016. The house was not move in ready and still isn't. I've had an inspector to come and inspect the house and he cited the landlord. She has until Oct 23rd to fix the damages. I've paid rent 3 months already and I'm tired of trying to get them to fix anything. The owner of the property management has also came to my house and walked through and took pictures. She assured me that everything would be fixed. It still hasn't as of today. What can I do to get out of this lease. I have not paid my rent for October yet but I have until the 4th before a late charge.


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