Terminating a Lease: Know Your Rights

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Before you terminate a lease, you should be sure to know your rights as a tenant. These rights will vary depending upon the jurisdiction where you live. Despite what may or may not be written into the lease, you will have certain rights under the law.

There could be any number of reasons why you might want or even have to terminate a lease agreement. Depending on where you live, there may even already be an out clause written into the lease, but these are rare and depend on certain circumstances.

Breach of Peace

One instance in which you may wish to terminate a lease is for breach of peace. Generally speaking, when the landlord rents a space to you, he or she agrees that you may enjoy the space in a peaceful manner. However, the neighbors in the apartment next door, or even the house next door, are up all hours of the night partying and being noisy. If the landlord does not take measures to stop this from occurring, then the lease may generally be terminated with proper notice because of this breach. The law recognizes that no one should have to be subject to noise and other distractions during certain periods of the day or night, nor should they ever be in fear where they live.

Safety Repairs

Another instance in which you may wish to terminate a lease agreement is that the landlord purposely ignores making any repairs that would otherwise interfere with the safety or well being of the occupants. This could include repairing broken step, a broken furnace, or other appliances that could affect your health and safety if not properly functioning. The law recognizes that tenants are paying for the right to be safe within their homes, and things like broken fixtures or otherwise damaged parts of the home are a safety hazard.

Landlord Rights

Now that we have talked about some reasons why a tenant might want to terminate a lease, we have to understand that there are some very good reasons as to why the landlord might decide to terminate the lease as well. The primary reason that most landlords will terminate a lease is the failure to pay the rent. They have the right to reclaim their property if the rent is not being paid, and the law recognizes this fact. It will ultimately result in the renter being evicted by the court, at which time the landlord will be given the rent to set your belongings out and reclaim the property.

A landlord may also take back the property and evict the tenant when it is shown that there is illegal activity occurring on the premises, such as drug activity or otherwise.

Whether you are the landlord or the tenant, it’s important that you recognize you have certain rights under the law. If a situation ever arises, then the first thing you will need to do is to contact a competent professional in your area who will be able to advise you of your rights under the lease agreement.

9 Responses to “Terminating a Lease: Know Your Rights”

  1. December 22, 2009 at 9:43 pm, Lee said:

    Very well written overview of the general concept of lease termination, and the implied warranty of habitability. The laws governing landlord/tenant covenants overwhelmingly favor the landlord in most states, however there are some states that have more modern and considerate statutes in place.

    Whether a maintenance or neighbor issue, it is best to compose a professionally toned letter to
    the landlord making your request for service and/or address. Generally, allowing seven to ten days is considered reasonable as to resolving or gaining a response. Also make notes in a diary of follow-up conversations, or summarize steps you’ve taken in making the request again.

    In most states, one cannot withhold rent over any maintenance issue. Usually it is necessary to go to a small claims court and seek a reduced amount of rent until the problem is resolved and/or to gain a lease termination, in absense of the landlord being willing to enter into a constructive agreement with the tenant until the problem is resolved.

    The local housing authority is one’s best resource, or talking with the local magistrate in discerning what small claims options might be available to seek relief and/or legal remedy. One does not need an attorney for a small claims action, and it is often difficult to find an attorney who specializes in tenant concerns for residential issues.


  2. January 09, 2010 at 9:58 am, chanell love said:

    I need some help my apartment complex is infested with BED BuGs and the rental office isn’t doing anything about the issue… The kids and neighbor being ate up bad. They keep spraying the apartment and the bug aree going from one apartment too the next. How can I break the lease.


  3. January 14, 2010 at 3:48 pm, Anonymous said:

    Ask them to spray the apt. next to you. Either way if you move, the Bed bugs will travel in your furniture. Just thought u should know that.


  4. January 25, 2010 at 7:00 pm, Anonymous said:

    If you have a problem with bed bugs, maybe you had them in a mattress that was not new when you bought it. I have been manager for 20 years and the only case of bed bugs were from a girl in the military that bought her mattress from a second hand store. When she got rid of the mattress and the apartment was sprayed that ended the bed bugs. Good luck with this problem.


  5. January 26, 2010 at 6:28 pm, Rosie said:

    I live in a downstairs unit and have lived here since august 2009. These are two bedroom units
    and a young family moved in upstairs with 3 little boys. I know I can’t expect total quiet as children will be children, but they constantly run thru the apartment and then jump off of things which rattles the light fixtures. I have left 2 messages for the apartment manager if she could talk to them. Now it seems worse and they stom thru the apartment deliberately. I pay my rent on time and feel that I should have some quiet here. I also work from home and my clients could hear the noise over the phone. I signed a years lease and would love to move. I just can’t handle it anymore.


  6. February 02, 2010 at 1:41 pm, Angela said:

    I just moved into an apartment complex and over the weekend my door handle got stuck or broke and I was unable to exit from my apartment. My roomate and I tried to slide soemthing in to force the catch back but was unable to do so. I called the emergency maintenance and they called me back about an hour and a half later to tell me to call a locksmith. I was shocked by the response but upon further questioning they told me it was the policy of the management to not consider any door handle problem as an emergency situation. I asked them how I was supposed to exit the unit and they said to call a lockmsith. Unfortunately I could not afford a locksmith at the time so I had to have the door knob unscrewed and removed completely. I filed another ticket on Monday morning and they came to replace it.
    I wrote the management a complaint about thier policy and asked them to contact me to see if we can work together to have it changed. This was a very stressful experience and I live on the upper floor so I had no escape, in the event of an emergency. I was literally trapped. The management has not contacted me to follow up on this at all. Today is Tuesday, about 1:30pm. I would like advice on what course of action to take. Can anyone help with this? I just feel like they are going to ignore me. I feel like they do not care about any of this. What recourse do I have?


  7. February 05, 2010 at 11:41 am, Brenda said:

    I have lived in my apartment since sept 2009. Before I moved in I asked if it was ok to have a dish for tv service the manager said yes. I told her where I would had it put she said yes that would be fine. I asked more than once to make sure. I was not going to get the apartment unless I could have the dish. After moving in I set up the dish. two weeks later I receive a notice stating that it is not ok for the dish to be there. So I go over to the office told them they said it was ok told them where I was going to have it moved to. Asked over and over again for written approval which they said I didn’t need. But in the amendment it said you do. Being the reason I was asking over and over for it. I asked them all is ok they said yes. Had the dish moved. Two weeks later a note on my door. Stating that the dish is not ok and if it is not removed by a certain date they will remove it and charge a hundred dollars to do so. I called and spoke to the manager. Asking her if ours was ok. She said no that there is no WRITTEN approval in our file. I stated that I went over there and talked to them. Begging for a written approval. She said that she would have told me that we needed one and that where I put the dish was not going to be ok. I stated that she was there when I was talking about where I was going to put the dish and begged for a written approval and she stated didn’t need one and that all was alright. She said she would have never said that. So I called to get the dish moved. It was going to cost hundred dollars to get it moved. Dish came out to check and there was no place that the dish would work. I had to cancel which was going to cost almost four hundred dollars because of a two year contract being broken. I am in the process of looking for another place to live. Once I find a place I will be breaking my lease to leave. Is there any way out of this lease when the time comes. My lease ends in August.


  8. February 10, 2010 at 3:11 pm, Jason said:

    Take them to small claims. Unfortunately, you should have made them put it in writing prior to moving in. However, both parties aggreed to a verbal contract which will hold up in court. You might not be able to break the lease, but the court may award you compensation for the removal and termination or you dish! I hope this helps!


  9. February 13, 2010 at 3:43 pm, Anonymous said:

    my apartment is infected with mice can i break the lease i live in macon georgia.thanks for your response


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