The early lease termination letter is designated for a Tenant who wishes to cancel a standard rental agreement before its end date. This request does not guarantee that the landlord will grant a release to the Tenant. Although, the Landlord may be motivated to cancel especially if the Tenant has lost their job, fallen sick, or any other extenuating circumstance that may pose a threat to the landlord collecting rent.
Security Deposit – In return for releasing the Tenant from the lease, the Landlord may require the security deposit be withheld. Ultimately this depends on the negotiation between the parties.
Step by Step: Terminating Your Lease Early
1. Download an early lease termination letter
A lease represents a legal and financial commitment to pay rent through the end date of the contract. For tenants who wish to leave early, often the best that they can do is to ask.
Enter the early lease termination letter: a respectful, well-written, and complete letter can help to bolster a tenant’s case for early departure. In the least, this letter should include:
- The original date of the lease, the date of the letter, and the intended departure date.
- An explanation of why the tenant wishes to terminate the lease.
- The location of the property that has been leased.
- Intentions for the security deposit – should it be returned or retained?
2. Give Your landlord proper notice
The more notice that is provided to the landlord, the better. This is a question of courtesy, but it can also impact whether a tenant is ultimately on the hook. Most jurisdictions require that a landlord make an earnest effort to re-rent an apartment vacated early before trying to recover rent from the previous tenants. So, the more time that the landlord has to find replacement tenants, the less likely tenants will be made to pay for remaining months.
Many tenants choose to try to find their own replacements – especially if they do not trust that the landlord will make a good-faith effort to replace them. Early lease termination is often a legal gray area, so allowing time to negotiate terms can be to the benefit of all parties.
3. Explain reason for termination
It’s not generally possible to break a lease simply out of a desire to move in with a significant other, leave town, or otherwise change scenery – but there are a few legally-permissible reasons to request termination. A tenant who is joining the military or is being deployed generally has just cause. In some jurisdictions, loss of a job or other disruptive employment changes may provide a legal basis for leaving.
Check the laws in your state to determine whether you have just cause to request an early lease termination. Remember that landlords have obligations in the rental contract too. A landlord who does not perform needed repairs, enters an apartment without notice, or otherwise breaches lease provisions may provide cause for tenants to terminate a lease. But even if you do not have a legal basis for compelling your landlord to terminate your lease, it can be helpful to write out a clear case in the early lease termination letter.
4. Security Deposit
State laws dictate when a landlord may seize a security deposit. Early lease termination without cause often, though not always, provides justification. The early termination letter should specify intentions for the deposit. Remember that this letter functions as a request more than a command, so the landlord may or may not comply.
5. Deliver notice to landlord
Since lease termination can be a sensitive topic, it’s wise to either deliver this letter by hand, or else to broach the topic with the landlord before sending the letter off. Receiving a letter in the mail should not be the first time that a landlord learns of a tenant’s intention to terminate a lease.
What to expect when breaking a lease
In the best case, lease termination is a mutual and cooperative process: the tenant expresses the desire to leave, clearly and with sufficient notice, and together landlord and tenant reach a satisfactory solution. The worst cases can end up in court.
Often, the difference maker is communication and tact. Since lease termination can be a sensitive matter, it is best to broach it strategically. Document communications and send letters when necessary, but do not let documents substitute for conversations.
Try to Leave on Good Terms
You never know when you might need a reference from a previous landlord. It is best to never burn bridges.