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Tips for Tenants – How to Break a Lease

by Chris Lang on December 23, 2008

Apartment for rentLife is full of surprises and things don’t always go the way we’d like them to. So it happens that after you’ve searched for a rental house and found one, moved in and started getting used to the new neighborhood, something comes up and you have to move to a different place. If you are renting on a fixed term contract, leaving before it ends is called “breaking a lease” (or in lawyers’ language “terminating a tenancy without grounds”).

When it comes to breaking a lease, you need to know your rights as a tenant. Of course the landlord isn’t going to be happy about your leaving, because he’ll have to find a new tenant and that’s a hassle – but there is a limit to how much he can make you pay.

How to break a lease

You have to give a notice to the landlord / his agent as soon as possible and in writing that you intend to leave on a particular date. When you move out and return the keys in that date, your tenancy ends and you can stop paying rent.

What it costs the tenant to break the lease

Because of your leaving early the landlord is entitled to compensation. You will need to compensate him

1) for the loss of rent that he would otherwise be getting and

2) for the costs he incurred to advertise the house again.

This means that you’ll have to pay the rent until a new tenant is found or until your fixed term lease ends. The good news is that the compensation is limited to 25 week’s rent, so even if you’ve just signed for a year and after 3 months had to leave they can’t charge you for the whole remaining 9 months.

Speaking of costs of re-letting the house again, these too have limit. Under no circumstances your landlord can ask for more than a week’s rent to cover these costs. And no matter how much they ask for, request an itemized list specifying all of their expenses to justify the bill. In other words they can’t just charge you a “re-letting fee” of one week’s rent without explaining what exactly they spent that money on and proving that the money was actually spent.

I have heard from friends about cases where the landlord wasn’t trying to find a new tenant and just kept charging the tenants that broke the lease because that was easier for him. You should know that it is actually illegal, and the landlord is not entitled for compensation for loss that could have been minimized or avoided if they had the house advertised for rent. If this is happening to you, here is what you can do:

  • Make sure that the agency is advertising the house for rent
  • Make sure they haven’t increased the rent (because obviously that will attract fewer prospective tenants)
  • Don’t pay the rent (the compensation) up front – you should be compensating for the loss that the landlord has suffered, not covering anticipated loss.
  • Until they find a new tenant, keep checking that the house is advertised. If they take it off the market for renovations, you shouldn’t be paying the compensation.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Tish January 28, 2016 at 8:47 am

Hi, I have a question- There is a gas leak problem and a landfill gas leak problem in our area that we leave. I have a 4 year son and 8 months pregnant. I have suffered with headaches 3-4 times a week. My son has had at least 3 nosebleeds. The HOA has emailed notices about the gas leak well issue. How should I approach my landlord for us to move. I just want a month to month lease with 30-60 day notice until we can move out of the area. I’m not evening trying to ask for anything but not to be to a binding lease. I have concerns for myself and my family, especially my unborn child. I know there is a tenant’s law for unhabitable living, but the gas leaks are not persay a result of the house needing repairs, its the area where the gas is coming into the house affecting us. I want to approach her in the correct manner that will get us results.

Thank you.

Reply

Ahmed January 29, 2016 at 2:44 am

Hi, I renewed my lease for a year in may 2015, in Sep 15, I was made redundant then as I was on a 457, my 457 expired and my company did not renew my visa. So I had to leave the country , the landlord is insistent that I keep paying my rent until May 2016 , I left the country on the 4th of jan 2016 and have continued to pay rent till now (28 Jan 2016) I can’t keep paying them anymore as I am now renting abroad now!!! The landlord has advertised the property through local real estate agents however the market is slow and no takers . What can I do ? I am living abroad now and had to leave the country as my 457 was not renewed so was not of my doing at all!!! I am still paying but it’s getting much now , what can I do ? Please help someone … Thanks

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Jane January 29, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Hi There,

I have recently broken my lease with 6 months still to go on it – I understand that I need to pay the rent until a new Tenant is found but what happens if the landlord decides to sell the property? Am I still liable for rent until the end of the fixed term tenancy agreement?

Reply

craig March 2, 2016 at 11:27 pm

I have been renting a house on a year lease for about four months. We were told that the bath would be plumbed up in about two weeks after moving in. its been four months and still aren’t able to was the bath because the work has not been done. it has brought up with estate agents many times. does this give me fair grounds to break my lease without having to pay the costs of breaking my lease.

Reply

Tania March 16, 2016 at 9:59 am

Hi my daughter is 17 nearly 18 and has just signed a lease with out us being there and now has been told she is not entitled to any help or money for rent, food and just everyday living expenses so she has to stay living at home not sure how to get her out of the lease. She hasn’t moved into the house yet. A friend of ours own the house that she is suppose to move into. Just hope you can give us some advice. Our financial situation is not that good either.

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sassy May 29, 2016 at 3:42 pm

hi peeps,
i need advice on how to break my lease i have lived here a little over a year and currently signed a lease for another lease. bad choice i must say… but reason why i want to break it is because there use to be a lady living directly under my unit last year who caused problems for me saying i loud and have people living with me a threat towards me saying she going to kill me i thought they moved her but since signing my new lease i have found that she has not moved she has only moved to the back of the units and the worker from wentworth housing is on her sideand are friends and has sent me emails to terminate my unit which are not valid to vacate my unit i do really want to leave but i need to go to her office and talk to her and by doing that i will need to pay the 6 weeks rent fee. i find this unfair and that mind games are being played… what can i do and go about this.

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