Tips for Landlords: How to Terminate a Lease

Landlords and residents often have many good reasons to terminate a lease. Maybe a resident is getting married, or moving out of town for word. In any case, you can terminate a lease in any of the following three ways:

  • Let the lease expire and don’t renew it.

  • Mutually agree with your resident to end the lease.

  • Require that the resident move out for breach of contract.

Serving a Notice of Nonrenewal

Some states don’t require landlords to serve residents with a notice of nonrenewal. However, if your lease requires the resident to give you advanced notice of her intent to move out, most courts interpret that duty to be reciprocal, and you have to give the resident a notice of nonrenewal if you decide not to renew the lease.

[Credit: Form courtesy of IREM]
Credit: Form courtesy of IREM

Even if a notice isn’t legally required, informing the resident in writing 30 to 60 days in advance that the lease won’t be renewed is wise. Doing so gives residents time to decide whether they want to stay or move. If they decide to move, it gives them time to find new accommodations.

Mutually agreeing to terminate the lease

Lease termination can be a useful strategy to avoid the hassle and expense of court proceedings because some renters just aren’t good candidates for multifamily housing. They make too much noise, don’t pay rent on time, trash the premises, or violate occupancy standards, perhaps by having long-term guests in violation of your lease.

[Credit: Form courtesy of Robert S. Griswold]
Credit: Form courtesy of Robert S. Griswold

Terminating the lease for breach of contract

You can terminate a lease prior to the date on which it ends only if the resident’s behavior is criminal or constitutes a serious breach of the lease terms.

If you have good reason to terminate the lease prior to its end date, you may need to serve the resident with a legal document first that gives the resident a chance to address the issue(s) that concern you, such as nonpayment of rent or damage to the unit.

[Credit: Form courtesy of Robert S. Griswold]
Credit: Form courtesy of Robert S. Griswold
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