Ending Tenancy of a Rental Unit

If your lease is up, then moving out is pretty straightforward. However, there a re many situations where the terms of the lease will need to be changed, or when circumstances out of your control force you to leave your rental.

Changing the Terms of the Lease or Rental Agreement

Any changing of the terms of the lease or rental agreement must be in writing and signed by both parties.

Ending of Month to Month Leases

The tenant should give the landlord written notice at least one month prior to moving out. Same goes for the landlord if the landlord wants to end the tenancy.

The Ending of Leases

When the term of the lease expires, the lease term ends. The landlord and tenant can decide to renew the lease or the tenant can choose to move out at the end of the lease term. 

Illegal Tenancy Terminations

Landlords cannot terminate leases for retaliation against tenants or for illegal discrimination. Also, landlords should avoid hold over clauses that made tenants pay higher rent as they may be illegal. 

When a Tenant Breaks the Lease

Some term leases have provisions allowing the tenant to "break" the lease by paying a fee or forfeiting their security deposit. The fees must be reasonable and actually reflect the landlord’s potential rent losses if the tenant decides to move out early.  However, if the lease does not have a break the lease provision, then the tenant is liable for the rent for the entire rental period unless the tenant is able to find another tenant to take over the lease with the landlord’s permission or the landlord allows the tenant to break the lease without any fees or penalties for early

termination.  If the tenant just vacates and does not give any notice, the tenant could be sued by the landlord for the remaining rent that is due under the lease term.

How to Get Out of a Lease

If you have valid reasons such as the landlord has violated the terms of the lease by not making major repairs or keeping the apartment habitable, you can legally get out of your lease. If your landlord has violated state or city safety or health codes you can also terminate your lease.  You probably have a valid reason to get of your lease if a criminal act has occurred on the premises and the landlord had not taken measures to keep you, or other tenants safe after being warned.

However, if you just need to break the lease because you lost your job or your financial circumstances have changed, or you are getting married, or have been transferred to another city for a new job, then you will probably need to talk to your landlord and work out some arrangement so that you are not stuck paying for the entire lease term.  Most landlords would rather have advance notice of your intentions to give them time to find another tenant. Before you leave, try and work out a payment arrangement.

Another way to get out of a lease is to find another tenant that will either take over the lease or sublet it. If you sublet, you are still responsible for the rental payments during the entire term if the subtenant leaves early or does not pay the rent.

If The Landlord Sells the Property

If you are on a month to month tenancy and the landlord sells the property, you will need to move before the closing date or within 30 days after the landlord gives you notice that he is terminating the tenancy. If you want to stay, you can ask the landlord to see if the new owner is willing to lease the apartment to you on a month to month basis as well.  Otherwise, you will need to find a new place.

For a term lease, if the landlord sells the property before your lease term expires, the new owner must honor the lease term. However, it is possible that the new owner may offer you a cash settlement including moving expenses to vacate early. This occurs frequently when a tenant is renting a single family home, and the new owner wants to live in the home. If you live in an apartment building, the new owner will probably want all the tenants to remain, but there may be an increase in the rent if they make improvements to the building.  Depends if you live in a rent controlled building or not.


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