Can a Landlord just break a lease because they feel like it? A signed rental lease agreement is a binding contract, and just like any other contract, the parties that agree to it must abide by its stipulations. This includes the landlord’s ability to break, or terminate, the lease early.
Most rental lease agreements contain language around the termination of the agreement and detail when a rental lease can be terminated with and without cause.
For example, you can typically terminate standard leases with cause if your tenant:
- Stops paying rent
- Lives with people who are not named in the lease
- Subleases the property without permission
- Engages in illegal activity in your property
But what if your renters are not in violation of the lease agreement terms and you want to terminate them for other reasons, can you still do it?
What if you would like to sell the house? Or what if you would like to move in? Can you just kick out your existing tenants to raise the rent and find new ones? The answer is – it depends.
Let’s take a look at the proper ways in which you can break a lease.
Include Additional Termination Language in Your Lease
Unless your tenant is violating the lease, thereby giving you the power to terminate your lease with cause, the only way to break a lease without cause is by specifying your ability to do so in the lease.
Include language in your lease that allows you to terminate “without cause” and be clear when doing so. Your renters should be aware of and agree to this clause since it impacts them directly.
You would likely need to include a notice period of at least 30 days to give your renters enough time to find another a place to live, and for them to agree to the term in the first place.
Some states require a minimum notice period, so check your local laws on this topic prior to including.
What If I Don’t Have Termination Language in The Lease?
Since the rental lease agreement is a binding contract, you will not be able to terminate the lease without cause if you don’t have the proper language in the lease agreement.
Just like you wouldn’t want your tenants to terminate the lease early and leave without paying the remaining rent, you can’t just remove them from the property either.
One way to give yourself the flexibility of a short lease duration is to enter into a month-to-month lease. The term of this type of lease is for one month and either party can terminate, or not renew in this case, with proper notice.
You can enter into a month-to-month lease with a new tenant or wait for your lease renewal with an existing tenant.
In summary, a landlord cannot break a lease without cause prior to the lease’s end date, unless it is clearly stated in the lease. Even for reasons such as selling the property or wanting to move in themselves.
If you would like the ability to terminate leases without cause, be sure to include language stating so in your lease agreement and have your renters explicitly agree to it.