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Ending a Lease or Rental Agreement FAQ

Ending a Lease or Rental Agreement FAQs

All leases and rental agreements have an end date. Yet, this does not mean tenants or landlords should not give notice if they do not intend to renew the lease. The notice allows both parties enough time to make appropriate arrangements.

Also, tenants and property owners may need to end the lease early. In either case, both parties should understand how to terminate a lease or rental agreement.

This article explores a few frequently asked questions about ending lease or rental agreements.

Check the Lease or Rental Agreement First

The lease agreement is a legal document that defines the landlord-tenant relationship. It should contain clauses that explain the steps each party must take at the end of the lease. The agreement is the first place a tenant or landlord should look before ending the rental contract. For example, the lease should state the amount of notice the renter should give and provide an address to send the notice.

Although rental and lease agreements are often used interchangeably, these terms are not synonymous. A rental agreement usually covers short-term rentals, such as a month-to-month tenancy. Lease agreements refer to longer-term or annual lease contracts.

The lease agreement should include a termination clause outlining early termination and any associated fees.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are a few frequently asked questions tenants or landlords may ask at the end of the lease.

Can the landlord ask a tenant to move out at the end of the lease?

Yes. A landlord may choose to terminate a tenancy at the end of the lease. In some states, the landlord or management company must give the tenants notice of termination of tenancy. Such notice gives the tenant time to find a new home.

Can the tenant stay after the lease expires?

After a lease agreement ends, the tenant has several options, including the following:

  • Move out
  • Continue to pay rent as a month-to-month tenant
  • Sign a new lease

If a tenant continues to pay rent after a lease ends, the lease converts into a month-to-month tenancy in many states. The landlord must give proper notice to alter the terms of the tenancy. Most states require a 30-day notice to change the terms of a month-to-month lease.

A landlord and a tenant may agree to extend the tenancy by signing a new lease agreement. The landlord can change the terms of the lease. If the tenant agrees to the new terms, the new lease governs the tenancy.

What is an early termination of lease agreement?

Tenants may end their lease agreement when it expires, absent an applicable state or federal law. For example, tenants may break a lease under federal law when they enlist in military service.

Every state has tenant-landlord regulations determining why a tenant may legally break a lease. In many states, a victim of domestic violence can break their lease if they have to move.

If an exception does not apply, the landlord may ask for an early termination fee to cover lost rental income and the costs of finding a new tenant.

Mitigating Damages

However, most states require the landlord to mitigate the damages by re-renting the unit. Although the landlord can sue the tenant to recoup some costs, they must also take reasonable steps to find a new tenant.

Depending on all of the circumstances, the landlord can sue for the following:

  • Cost to find a tenant
  • The time the rental property remained vacant
  • Attorney fees, if included in the lease agreement
  • The difference between the rent paid by the new tenant and the former tenant

Can the tenant terminate a month-to-month rental agreement?

In most states, a tenant must provide a landlord with a written 30-day notice of the intent to terminate the tenancy. In most cases, a tenant may give notice of termination at any time during the month. Tenants should check their lease and state law to confirm.

Must the landlord return the security deposit?

Landlords must return the tenant's security deposit minus any deductions. A security deposit is the landlord's reassurance during the tenancy. The landlord has some coverage if the tenant misses their monthly rent payment or causes damages.

A landlord may use the tenant's security deposit for any of the following reasons

  • To cover unpaid rent
  • To clean the rental unit after the tenant moves out
  • To fix any damage that exceeds normal wear and tear

In many states, if the landlord uses the security deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized list of deductions. State laws covering security deposits vary, but in many states, the landlord must return the deposit and the itemized list within 14 to 45 days of moving out.

Can the landlord evict a tenant?

Landlords often evict tenants for unpaid rent, property damage, or rental contract violations, like an illegal sublet. Even if the landlord has a good reason to evict, they cannot rely on self-help. Landlords must use the eviction process to evict a tenant.

First, the landlord must serve the tenant with a written lease termination notice. Every state has different guidelines for notification requirements. Often, tenants get either a 30-day or 60-day termination notice. If the tenant refuses to move out or doesn't correct the violation after receiving a termination notice, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.

How should a tenant end a lease?

Although all parties know the lease's end date, tenants who do not intend to renew their lease should send their landlord a lease termination letter. This is often a requirement of the lease. A lease termination letter formally notifies the landlord that the tenant will not renew the lease. This gives the landlord time to find a new tenant.

Tenants can also provide a forwarding address for the landlord to return their security deposit.

Get Legal Help

Landlord-tenant laws are relatively complicated. You should speak to a qualified landlord-tenant attorney if you need help ending a lease or rental agreement. They are experts in this niche area of real estate law and can provide sound legal advice. Speak to an experienced landlord-tenant attorney today.

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