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When Can a Tenant Legally Break the Lease?


Every landlord and property manager can agree that the ideal tenant is one who stays long term, complies with the lease, cares for the property, and pays on time. And while landlords and property managers can do things on their end to help increase these odds, life can often throw a curve ball. Despite all your best efforts, your tenant requests to break the lease. So in what situations must you comply with their request and allow your tenant to leave early?

Breaking the Lease with Military Orders

Tenants who are military members face a lot of uncertainty when it comes to staying in one place long term. They can sometimes receive orders taking them across the globe at the drop of a hat. For this reason, the Service Member Civil Relief Act was created. This law grants that given military orders, be it for deployment or induction, that move a military member 35 miles or more from the property, discharge them from service, or if there’s a loss of life, the tenant is legally allowed to break their lease. Landlords are required to release them upon provision of written notice and a copy of the military orders. For more information, review the Servicemember Relief Act or consult your legal counsel.

Unlivable Conditions

There are certain conditions a rental property must meet in order to be considered habitable. In the event that a property fails to meet these conditions and is no longer fit for human habitation, tenants may have a case for breaking their lease. For further information on what is considered habitable and what a landlord is required to do to meet these requirements, be sure to contact your attorney. This is where hiring a property management company, such as Real Property Management Colorado, comes in handy. We know the laws and keep up to date on any changes that arise so that you don’t have to worry about going it alone.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence (DV) is another situation where a tenant is legally allowed to break their lease. If your tenant is the victim of a DV case and is able to provide proof (such as a protective order, police report, etc), many states require a landlord to release them from the lease. Knowing both state and local laws is crucial, so be sure to do your due diligence.

These are only a few situations in which a tenant may choose to break their lease. Job transfer, job loss, divorce, illness, etc., are all common reasons that can come up. And in some cases, the best way to resolve a situation with a difficult tenant is to let them out of the lease. So whether you’re required to let them out of the lease or it truly is the best option for everyone involved, stay positive, professional, and keep working towards your rental goals!

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.