7 Valid Reasons Why Tenant Can Break the Lease

The need to break the lease will invariably happen to you if you live in rented accommodation for long enough. Leaving your landlord in the lurch is obviously not desirable and there are ways that you can go about leaving and not stitch up your landlord.

There are of course valid reasons to leave, these are reasons that you can vacate the property and not remain liable for the rent. On top of this there will be other times when you will simply need to leave. In this article we will discuss what you may need to leave for and how to work out a fair deal with your landlord so that all parties are left happy.

Valid Reasons to Break the Lease

Legally you have a number of reasons that you can vacate the property for and not be held liable. When leaving a property early it pays to know your rights and understand if the reasons you need to leave are considered valid reasons to break a lease.

Constructive Eviction

Constructive Eviction also known as Eviction through Frustration occurs when the property you are living in becomes uninhabitable. There may have been a fire, a substantial pest infestation or the utilities may have been shut down through not fault of your own.

A Constructive Eviction gives you the right to leave as the property is deemed uninhabitable. Most states have a variation on this law and it pays for your landlord to keep the property up to standard to avoid this happening during your lease.

It is worth pointing out that this is a relatively uncommon reason for leaving a property as it is rare that landlords allow their properties to fall into such states of disrepair that you are able to vacate.

There will be a number of criteria that must be meet and it is common for an Environmental Health Officer to be involved who will confirm whether or not the property is classed as uninhabitable. Remember it is not you who gets to decide whether the property is uninhabitable. Your city’s health department will likely have a strict set of criteria that must be met to allow you to vacate under this condition.

Military Service

In the majority of states being called up to active military service is classed as an acceptable reason to break a lease without being required to pay up the lease. If you are employed by the military and face the prospect of being called up to active duty it is important to ascertain whether your state allows you to break the lease.

It is likely that you will have to give thirty days notice and also show evidence that you have been called up for this reason to be granted. But it is absolutely something to look into and ready yourself with if it is a situation that you may find yourself in.


In some states being made bankruptcy is a viable reason to be allowed to break your lease. This is due to the nature of a bankruptcy order and as with military service will be something you will need to prove for your landlord to accept.

If you are going through the process of being declared bankrupt or it seems like this may be something that may happen to you speak with your landlord to make them aware of your situation and speak with your local financial services department who will be able to confirm whether you are entitled to vacate the property due to bankruptcy.

Natural Disaster

Should your property be destroyed or severely damaged due to natural disaster most states allow you to break the lease and find suitable accommodation instead of staying put in the damaged property.

As with Constructive Eviction it is likely that you will need the confirmation of an Environmental Health Officer who can give you the go ahead to vacate and confirm the conditions required for breaking the lease are met due to the damage that occurred during the natural disaster.

Things like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis and tornadoes are covered by law in most states that frequently suffer from such events. If you happen to live in an area that is known to suffer from frequent natural disasters it pays to understand the rules around breaking leases so that you are aware of your options should such an event occur.

Other Reasons

From time to time there will be situations in your life that will require you to break a lease outside of those that are made available by law. These reasons are often open to discussion with the landlord and it is rare that a landlord will choose to keep an unhappy tenant.

Having said that you will need to do a few things to placate the situation and it is important that you come to an agreement that suits all parties involved rather than just leaving the property.

Employment Relocation

We live in a transient world with employment opportunities occurring further afield from our home towns more and more. As such it is not uncommon for tenants to take positions that just make it unsuitable to remain at their current property.

Should you take up employment too far from your current property to commute it is important that you discuss this with your landlord and try to come to an understanding so that you are able to vacate the property without remaining liable for the lease.

My suggestion would be to broach the subject with your landlord prior to applying for or accepting a relocation from your current employers. As should your landlord flatly refuse to allow you to leave then relocating may not be an option for you.

Understand that it is unlikely that the law will fall on your side in this situation and that you will need to negotiate with the landlord. It would be best to acquiesce with what your landlord wants to allow you to leave.

You may be able to offer to pay until a new tenant is found, help with viewings, source a new tenant yourself or offer to leave behind your damage deposit as compensation to your landlord.

Once you have come to an agreement you should have a surrender document drawn up to confirm what has been agreed. Have this document signed by both parties and move on. Hopefully the situation will be handled calmly and all parties will be left satisfied once the lease is broken.


Life happens and couples get married. It is important to understand that it is unlikely your aim to vacate your property and move in with your partner will be viewed as a valid reason to break the lease.

Find out your states rules relating to this and then discuss your impending nuptials with your landlord. As with relocation it is unlikely that a landlord would wish to force an unhappy tenant to remain at the property. As before it is likely that you will have to negotiate with your landlord so that you are allowed to break your lease.

Find out what you can do to compensate your landlord and aim to work out a surrender document so that all parties are left satisfied. With things like marriages it is unlikely that this will simply sneak up on you. Give your landlord as much notice as possible and make it clear that you understand your rights and you are happy to go with the agreement you have with the landlord.

Loss of Finances

People lose jobs. It’s a fact of life and clearly losing a job will have a huge impact on your finances. Even though it is not considered a valid reasons to vacate the property it is likely that a landlord will be prepared to come to some form of agreement with a tenant that does not have the ability to make rent.

As soon as you lose your job speak with your landlord and make them aware of the situation. You may need to leave quickly and may be able to offer your deposit as compensation for having to break the lease or you may know someone that can replace you and therefore not affect your landlord’s revenue stream in any way.

Be honest and try to handle the situation calmly. Speak with everyone involved and try to come to an agreement that is suitable to all parties. If you work as a contract employee with unreliable employment it may pay to make your landlord aware of this at the begging of your lease and therefore have a clause added to the contract making all parties aware of what should happened if you lose your job.

What to Do to Break Your Lease

In this section we will discuss how you should go about breaking your lease and what you can do to make the most of an undeniably difficult situation. If you do need to leave outside of the valid reasons to break a lease there are a number of things you can do to hopefully make the process a little smoother.


As soon as it is looking likely that you will need to break your lease make sure you reach out to your landlord to explain your side of the story. It is important that you make your landlord aware of the problem and what you intend to do to make the best of the situation.

Be honest and clear about why you need to leave and explain that you are prepared to help where possible and make the search for a new tenant as smooth as possible for your landlord. Explain that you want to come to some form of agreement so that your landlord is happy to allow you to leave the property.


Whilst explaining the situation to your landlord serve official notice. This should be done as quickly as possible and should allow for as much notice as you can afford. The notice should be given in writing and should offer to give the landlord a substantial amount of time to source a new tenant.

Try to be clear, but calm with your points and do not argue or cause issues for your landlord. If you are truthful and it is clear that you are trying to make the best of a bad situation for all parties most landlords will be accepting of your notice and will then move on to try and come to some sort of surrender agreement.


Negotiate with your landlord and try to offer something that they are agreeable to. This can be in the form of monetary compensation, perhaps some additional rent or allowing them to keep your damage deposit.

You can also negotiate your time. You can offer to make yourself available for viewings to help the landlord find a new tenant. Plus it pays to offer to have the property thoroughly cleaned. This will make the property more attractive to potential tenants.

Normally a combination of finances and your time to assist with sourcing a new tenant are enough to placate a landlord and have them find some kind of agreement with you. Once you have come to an agreement have this documented in the form of a surrender document. This will make note of exactly what has been agreed, it will also give you a vacation date and will make allowances for any compensations, etc.


You may know of someone who is looking to lease a property or you may be able to advertise for new tenants to replace you. If this is the case and you have someone that can take over your lease it may be a great outcome for the landlord as they will not suffer any loss due to you leaving the property.

Of course, your landlord has the final say over who they accept and it is likely that you will have to pay for any new administrative charges that are chargeable due to the drawing up of the new lease and references, etc.

Some landlords may not be happy for you to advertise and may not be keen to go down the subletting route. This may be stated in your agreement so it is best to check this with your landlord first to ensure they are happy with this as an answer to you wishing to leave.


Having to break a lease is can be problematic, but if all parties are honest and remain calm the situation can be solved fairly smoothly. Be adult about the problem and face it head on to ensure that you are giving yourself the best possible chance of coming to an agreement with your landlord.

Know your rights and stick to them. Don’t be afraid to discuss breaking a lease as ignoring the issue will not make it go away. Don’t just leave and hope the problem won’t follow you as landlords are often contacted for references when you rent property in the future.

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