A Guide for Property Owners
The lease that you create and you and your tenants agree to through a signature is considered to be a legally binding agreement. If those that elect to rent your property break the lease contract, you may pursue it in the court system.
Property owners are typically entitled to sue for the unpaid portion of the rent as outlined in the lease agreement and have the option of having an eviction listed on the tenant’s public record. It must be understood, though, that there are situations when a tenant DOES have a right to break a lease and not be held liable. Continue reading to learn more.
Lease Rights and Responsibilities
When you and your tenant signs a lease, it is placing an obligation on the tenant to remain on and pay rent on the property for a specified amount of time. During that time, you are under obligation to keep the lease intact with no changes and cannot raise the rent. The only exception to this is if the lease outlines the fact that a mid-lease increase may be necessary. You cannot force a tenant to leave the property prior to the end of the lease term.
If the tenant is in violation of the terms of the lease or fails to pay the rent money as specified, you – as the property owner – may pursue the legal steps required to terminate the tenancy. Prior to legal pursuits in a court of law, you must provide your tenant with a notice to pay that allows 10 days of time. You may also file a 10-day notice that a tenant must leave. At least one of these actions must be pursued prior to legally filing an eviction.
If your tenant is in violation of any component of the lease agreement that the both of you originally agreed to, you may provide the individual with what is referred to as an “Unconditional Quit Notice”. This will provide the tenant with the opportunity to remedy or correct any areas where they are in violation. If corrections are not made, the tenant will have to move out without the 10-day period. If the tenant leaves, they are still bound to pay the rent for the remaining duration of the lease; however, there are exceptions.
When is it Acceptable for a Tenant to Break a Lease?
There are several exceptions where a tenant may legally break their lease without being held responsible for the remaining balance due on said agreement. These include the following:
- Domestic Violence – If a tenant becomes the victim of domestic violence, they may be able to opt for early termination of their lease; however, certain conditions must be met. One example is providing a copy of an official police report to you, the landlord.
- Active Military Duty – If the tenant is part of the armed forces, NOAA, National Guard, or the Public Health Service Corps, and they go into active-duty status, provide a written termination letter regarding the military-based reason, and provide it to you through mail or another type of delivery service, they may be exempt from the legal responsibilities of the lease.
- Safety Codes Violation or Violations – If the rental unit is not deemed habitable – due to the presence of mold, no water, no electricity, or another serious safety issue – a tenant may break the lease. However, they are procedures that the tenant must adhere to and complete in order to do this legally.
- Violation of Privacy Rights – If you violate the rights of your tenant, harass them or engage in activities such as changing the locks or removing doors, that tenant may legally break their lease through a court.
- Gas Equipment Conditions – As a landlord, you have up to 72 hours to repair a gas-related condition occurring with your rental property. This time frame excludes holidays and weekends. If you fail to do this, it is considered to be a hazardous living situation and your tenant may vacate the property and legally break the lease. The tenant may also request their security deposit to be returned to them – in full.
What to Provide as a Landlord
As a landlord, you will want to take every step necessary to prevent a situation where a tenant may legally break the lease that both of you have agreed to. You must keep in mind that any condition that results in interference to the life, safety, and/or the health of a tenant is one that could justify the legal breaking of a lease by a tenant. To protect yourself, you should provide – at a minimum – the following when renting out your property:
- The rental should provide an adequate level of protection against all weather conditions. For example, no windows should be broken and there should be no holes in the walls, floors, and other areas of the structure.
- The structure should be secure. In other words, all doors should be able to lock and all windows should be able to shut appropriately.
- The plumbing and the water supply should be adequate and in good working order.
- The structure should have an adequate heating source. While air conditioning is typically not required, consideration should be made to provide it in order to increase the comfort level of the tenants.
- The electrical and all related components should be safe, updated, and adequate for the structure.
- The floors, stairs, steps, railings, and all other related components should be safe.
- Extermination of all pests including vermin, bedbugs, fleas, and other types of bugs should be provided to ensure that no pest exists within the rented structure.
- All conditions that could create mold or mildew should be remedied to ensure a safe environment throughout the structure.
- Trash receptacles should be provided that are adequate for the structure.
- All other steps necessary to properly maintain the structure should be taken as deemed necessary.
If you own and lease property, it is advised that you seek the assistance of a professional property management company. Not only will this type of company aid in creating legal leases, but they will also assist in tenant screening, and selection, and will work to obtain all of the necessary paperwork to protect you as a landlord. These companies specialize in providing maintenance and repair services that will keep your property in the best shape possible.
Property management companies know the laws, policies, and procedures surrounding rental property and will aid in ensuring that you are compliant. In doing so, this will protect you from most of the exceptions where tenants may legally break their lease – apart from domestic violence cases and those involving active military duty. Furthermore, they will keep books for you and handle tax implications associated with your property.
Contact Us Today
If you want to protect yourself, your finances, and your properties, we here at Pioneer Property Management can assist you. We offer a wide range of services that will ensure that you are in full compliance and that your tenants do not have the ability to break the lease agreement that they make with you. In addition to this, we also offer showings, and marketing services, and offer an online portal system where payments may be made and tracked. To learn more about our services or to consult with one of our professionals, we encourage you to contact us today by calling: 970-500-5527