When can I legally terminate the lease agreement?

By Tenant

When entering into a lease agreement, I don’t really pay attention to its clauses.  All I’m interested in is to move and get settled in to my new apartment.  A few months after I moved in, problems would start to come out and depending on the intensity of the problems, I would like to have the option to terminate the lease early.  But by terminating, I wouldn’t want to pay any early termination fees or pay rent to cover the remaining months in my lease agreement.

So to be safe and well guided in my decision, I took the time to do my own research and for Owen some professional advise from lawyer forums too.  So here’s a list of the legal reasons for you to get out of a lease agreement early.

  1. If the apartment complex or property has been destroyed.  So it’s basically common sense; if the place has been destroyed then the lease agreement becomes void.  But for that to happen, you would need to all in all the forces of nature including an earthquake or a hurricane.
  2. If the lease agreement says that a landlord has the duty to make repairs within a specified time frame and he has not done so then you can terminate the lease agreement early.  That will be valid and legal.
  3. The warranty of habitability is a commonly used term in rental.  Basically, if the landlord fails to provide you with a safe and healthy environment to live in, then the law will allow you to terminate the lease agreement.  Examples of violations to the warranty of habitability would be the presence of black mold and nonstop issues on sewage.
  4. If your landlord violates any part of the building code, you can report the violation to your local housing authority.  The landlord will be give in a specific timeframe to the repairs.  But if the landlord fails to do the repair is or if he does to the repairs but he charges you additional for them, that would be considered illegal and you can terminate the lease early.
  5. A profound change in life status may also be a valid and legal reason terminate a lease early.  However, this does not include divorce, separation or a new job in another state.  Changes in light status like death, long-term hospitalization, moving to an assisted facility and being called for the military are valid considerations.  In some cases, insanity and lengthy prison terms may also be used.
  6. Bankruptcy also includes an option to get out of any lease agreement that you may have signed.  Of all the reasons, this may not be the most ideal because it marks you for the next 7 to 10 years.
  7. Lastly, if the property is an illegal unit then you can break the lease agreement early.  An illegal unit is, for example, a converted basement, garage, and/or any other attached structures.

So there you go.  Those are the reasons for us, tenants, to break a lease agreement early.  But of course, your state laws may have their own say on the subject so it’s best to consult with your local state authority or with an attorney.

As for me, my apartment had some violations on the local building code so I had to terminate the lease early.  It wasn’t easy though because my landlord wasn’t an easy person to deal with anyway.  So I filed a complaint against my landlord and within a few days, I got a solution to my case.  I used RPA’s services through this link http://www.rentalprotectionagency.com/complaint_center.php. That’s their complaint center. Hope this helps you!

Edited on: Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 10:26 pm

11 Responses to “When can I legally terminate the lease agreement?”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)


February 6th, 2013 10:40 pm

Thank you! This article really helps a lot. There are really a lot of landlords who still charge the early termination fee even if the reason is valid. Of course, states would have their own rules. But at least, this is a guideline that we can follow. Again, thank you so much!


February 7th, 2013 6:40 pm

This is why I hate having to move to different states because the laws change. It’s difficult enough knowing all the tenat laws in your state, getting familiarized with a new set of completely diifferent law is another thing. Can’t everyone just agree to having just one set of law that will cover all 50 states? Anything that involves money is VERY imortant and anything that binds you is of equal importance.


February 8th, 2013 2:40 pm

Why sign a lease agreement when you have no clue as to what it say? Ignorance can really get you into a lot of trouble. What if your reason for early lease termination is not valid? Then you would be wasting a lot of money to end the lease, find a new place and start all over again. Sucks, right? Well, it wouldn’t have happened if you just read the agreement!


February 9th, 2013 11:00 am

A lease agreement may be legally binding but your state laws are stronger so they come in first in case of conflicts. So know your state tenant laws first then your lease agreement. It should not be the other way around. You don’t want to sign an agreement that is illegal in your state.


February 10th, 2013 7:20 am

I, too, did the same mortal sin – I signed the lease agreement without really understanding what it says. Very lame, huh? It happens. So now, I’m stuck on this lease for the next 6 months. I do not and cannot afford to pay all those early termination fees. Everyday of living here is a struggle, believe me. The neighbors are too noisy, the landlord lost all his charm when I moved in so basically, I’m paying for everyday for that wrong decision.


February 11th, 2013 3:40 am

I learned the hard way too. After that bad experience with my previous landlord, I made it a point to read all the clauses included in the lease agreements. I even asked for RPA’s help to get out of the last lease agreement because my landlord would not let me go even if the place has black mold.


February 11th, 2013 11:40 pm

Under normal circumstances, I know you need to give a 30, 60 or 90-day written notice of your intention to move out. I don’t know if it applies to month-to-month rental agreement though.


February 12th, 2013 10:40 pm

Any idea how much the standard termination fees would cost?


February 13th, 2013 6:40 pm

Generally, the early termination fee would be equivalent a one month rent. But if you get lucky, your landlord may only require for 1/2 your rent. Again, look into your lease agreement if you’re planning on breaking your lease before your term is up.


February 14th, 2013 2:40 pm

This is why I prefer month-to-month renting. There is no lease agreement and if I decide to move out, I can just give my written notice within the specified timeframe, pack up my things and go.


February 15th, 2013 11:00 am

If you want to get out of your lease agreement early, I would suggest that you look for a replacement tenant. Clean the house well before you leave and you should be saving a lot of money. Good luck!


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