Can a landlord break a lease?  That is contingent on your lease and behaviors.

Landlords and tenants are bound together with a Lease Agreement.  A legal document that defines obligations, notices, and punishments if either party fails to meet their requirements.

To learn more specifically when landlords can and cannot break a lease, we explain what happens when tenants are or are not in good standing.

Can a landlord terminate my lease?


No, when tenants meet agreed terms

When tenants are in good standing for lease terms, landlords cannot break the lease.

Assuming rent is paid on time, all pets and tenants are on the lease, and no disturbance has occurred, tenants are in good standing.

Leases are unique and specific to every property.  Read your lease agreement and identify all the tenant’s obligations.

Landlords only exception to legally break a lease are specific clauses for ‘early-termination’. Or, if eminent domain occurs and the government forces.  These are rare.


Yes, when tenants do not meet agreed terms

When tenants are meeting all the terms and conditions of a lease, landlords cannot terminate or break a lease.  However, when any term of the lease is violated then the landlord has legal rights to terminate the lease.

It is not easy for landlords to break a lease.  Often leases include terms that protect the tenants by providing them a chance to correct violations.

Every state has different laws for terminating leases due to violations.  Most common notices to quit typically fall into one of the following categories:


Pay rent or quit notices:

If tenants do not pay rent, landlords may serve a notice giving the tenants a set amount of time to either pay or leave the rental.  Typically, three to five days.  Commonly referred as a ‘Five Day Notice’.

When roommates share a lease, every tenant is held responsible for rent.  Learn more about roommate policies and when you are responsible..

Best ways to pay rent.


Cure or quit notices:

If tenants break a condition of the lease other than paying rent, they receive a Cure or Quit Notice.  Like Pay Rent or Quit Notice, there is a certain amount of time tenants are given to correct the problem and get back into good standing of the agreed lease terms.

Examples include pets and not informing the landlord.  Corrections are paying the pet deposit/fee or back-charges for pet rent.  Or, if more tenants are occupying than stated on the lease, those individuals either need to get added to the lease or leave the property.  These new tenants will need to meet the requirements of the landlord and often include background reports.

Another common breach, tenants who either never got renters insurance or let it expire.  Usually, landlords will require the tenant to have insurance and may ask for a copy.  If you need, get a quote on renters insurance today.


Unconditional quit notices:

When tenants receive this notice, it is too late to correct any lease violations.  Often required to leave the property in a shorter period of time.  The most serious termination notice.

When tenants act in threatening or irreparably harm the property or person, they are given an Unconditional Quit Notice.  These instances can have immediate termination.

State laws vary for unconditional quit notices.  Tenants who receive these notices are given a short period of time to leave the premises.


Does my lease cancel if the landlord sells the property?

No.  Your lease is tied to the property, not the landlord.

The new landlord must honor the lease.  Expect your new landlord to send a lease amendment indicating the change to landlords.  Landlord X is now Landlord Y.  Rent paid to Address X now goes to Address Y.

No terms should change for rent, dates, or other policies.

In rare cases, leases may specifically state a clause for early termination if the landlord sells the property.  This clause is legal but not often included in leases.


What happens to your security deposits?

During a transition of landlords or management, your security deposit will transfer between parties.  Legally, it is the obligation and responsibility for the two parties to handle that transaction.

Although it never hurts to protect yourself and confirm with both parties that security deposits were transferred.


What if I am on a month-to-month lease?

New landlords or management must still honor the lease in place.  Even on month-to-month leases.

With that said, your new landlord or management can end the lease after the monthly period.  They can increase rents or adjust policies.

States vary from a 30, 60, 90-day notice for ending leases.  Know your state requirements.


What if the tenant needs to break the lease?

If a landlord can break a lease, can the tenant?  Yes.

When tenants need to end a lease early, it is best to communicate directly with the landlord or management.  If a lease has an early-termination clause, follow the clause and provide proper notification.

Here are legal situations that allow tenants to break a lease:

  • Tenants who enter active military service or related government positions
  • Health problems, varies by state
  • Job relocation, varies by state

Landlords tend to be more flexible than management companies.  Especially when tenants have been kind to their landlords and always paid on-time.  Common early termination agreements fall into one of these categories:

  • 1 or 2 months of rent as a termination fee
  • Half the remaining rent due as a termination fee
  • Pay rent until another tenant replaces them
  • Fully responsible for finding a replacement
  • Cannot get out of their lease. Most strict.

Best advice is work patiently with your landlord.  Your previous actions will determine the leniency they offer.


Bottom Line

Lease Agreements are created to protect both parties.  Landlords and tenants.  Assuming each party is in good standing with their agreed obligations, the agreement cannot be broken.

Tenants have a lot of protection from state and federal laws.  Research your state specific Landlord-Tenant laws.  Landlords are often required to provide notice and a period of correction.  If tenants fail to correct their violations in time, the landlord has the legal rights to terminate the lease.

Can a landlord break your lease?  Yes but now you are better prepared to handle this situation.