What Do You Do When the Tenant Breaks the Lease Before the Agreed Date?

The lease states that you and the lessee shall be bound for the duration of the lease. However, a tenant’s extenuating circumstances may get in the way, and you may encounter a time when the tenant needs or wants to terminate the lease early and move out. Sometimes their reasons for leaving are legitimate (as when the landlord refuses to repair a problem that makes the rental unfit). But more often, it is love, a job, school, or the prospect of a better deal somewhere else.

If you suspect that the tenant is about to leave, have a conversation. That way, you can address a potential problem, such as a tenant's concern that you won't change the no-pet policy to make room for a new pet. Or, the tenant may have left because you failed to meet your obligations—for example, fixing a leaky roof—in which case you may have been given a last chance to do your job. Please note that if the tenant leaves for this reason, you can no longer ask for rent on the remaining balance on the lease since you did not fulfill your obligations to make timely repairs.

Now suppose the tenant leaves for purely personal reasons and you cannot solve the problem. In this case, you face a vacancy that you were not prepared for. The tenant still has to pay the balance on the lease, but that's not the end of the story. In most states, you have to take reasonable action to start leasing the unit again. Once you rent it out, your former tenant's responsibility for the balance ends.