A lease agreement is a contract between a tenant and a landlord and is legally-binding. Only in certain circumstances can the contract be broken without the tenant being responsible for paying rent for the remainder of the lease.
1. Warranty of Habitability
Under the law, an implied warranty of habitability protects tenants from circumstances that may occur rendering the premises uninhabitable. This means the residence must have water that is safe to drink, a working sewer system, the electrical system must be safe, and the heat must work. The minimum standards regarding these requirements will vary depending on each state's housing laws.
Circumstances can change after a lease is signed. The tenant may discover a problem after moving in that makes the home unsafe. However, the tenant must give the landlord the opportunity to make repairs. A certified letter with return receipt requested should be sent stating the problems. This provides the tenant with proof of having notified the landlord of the problems.
If the landlord does not respond or does not make the repairs within a reasonable amount of time, the tenant has the right to break the lease agreement. The letter should give a specific time that the tenant expects the repairs to be completed. This is generally at least a week. The amount of time can vary depending on the urgency of the repairs.
2. Active Military Duty
Members of the military who are being called to active duty for over 90 days can terminate a lease early. This is a federal law. If a member of the military is called to active duty for the first time, they can also end a lease early. They must deliver a copy of their military orders and a written notice that the lease is being terminated to the landlord.
Some states recognize circumstances beyond a tenant's control as a reason to end a lease agreement. For example, a tenant may become seriously ill and require an extended stay in the hospital. They may need to move to an apartment that provides assisted living.
In addition to maintaining a residence to include the basics, the home could have issues that are causing a tenant to have health problems. This could be a reason for early termination of a lease. Mold growth is one example. Proof must be obtained such as a report from a testing facility that states the mold is present and toxic. Additionally, a diagnosis from a doctor stating that the tenant has severe allergies to mold would be helpful.
4. Domestic Violence
Another situation that is recognized as a valid reason to end a lease is being a victim of domestic violence that occurred within the residence. Some states allow the victim to end the lease if they provide a 30-day notice. The landlord will generally require proof of the domestic violence. The proof could include an order of protection from the court or a police report.
5. Violating Privacy
If a landlord violates a tenant's privacy, this could be a valid reason for ending a lease. Constantly going to the tenant's residence without notice can be a violation of privacy. Landlords are supposed to give advance notice before coming to the home for inspections, repairs, or other business.
In some cases, a landlord will allow a tenant to break their lease for other reasons. A tenant should talk to the landlord and explain their situation. They can offer to help the landlord find another tenant. The landlord may be willing to work with the tenant to keep them from having to pay off the remainder of the lease.
By Andre Bradley