What happens when a tenant breaks lease?

When a tenant breaks their lease early you have a few factors to consider.
Assuming you and a tenant sign a rental agreement or lease, you both are bound to the terms of the contract.
In most cases where the lease is broken early, it will be the tenant who initiates the early termination of a lease, either intentionally or unintentionally.
It is rare that a landlord or property owner breaks a lease.
This post will address the different scenarios of what happens if a tenant breaks the lease early and moves out.

Break Lease with Advanced Notice

Most of the time, a tenant will seek an early termination to a lease or rental agreement because he needs to move to another location, for whatever reason.
Many times, the tenant needs to move away from the area for a job. Obviously, he will seek to terminate the lease before it naturally expires.
It behooves you to work with your tenant who wants to leave early and we suggest that you work with the tenant to make his move as painless for you and him as possible.
Of course, if he wishes to vacate his rental unit early, you have to cover yourself financially. You will want to get as much advanced notice as humanly possible so that you can seek out a new tenant to fill the vacancy as soon as possible.
You obviously want to find a new tenant as soon as possible, going through your normal tenant screening process.
The goal is to have a paying tenant in your rental unit for as much time as possible with little to no time in a vacant state. Every day you are without a paying tenant, your past tenant has to pay.

Breaking Lease with No Notice

Things get a bit messier when your tenant ups and leaves without notice and you have no way to get in touch with him after he leaves.
Things are muddled, too, when you initiate–knowingly or unknowingly–breaking a lease.
It is not uncommon to wake up one morning to find that one of your rental units had been vacated without any notice.
In this case, you had better follow all the proper procedures of your state. You want to make sure that you document everything.
You should try to find your ex-tenant, but you also need to find a new tenant to fill the vacancy, forcing you to double your efforts.
If you breach a rental agreement or lease, your tenant has a right to end the lease before its end date. He technically did not break the lease—you did.

Breaking Lease with Proper Notice

In most jurisdictions, a tenant must give you 30 days or more notice before vacating the premises. This should give you enough time to find a new tenant.
In some jurisdictions, even with 30 days notice, the former tenant owes rent all the way up until the end of the lease or agreement, provided that the rental unit has not yet been occupied.
Do not think, however, that you can bring in a new tenant and keep collecting rent from the former tenant simultaneously. You cannot do this!
As you can see, there are some nuances to breaking a lease. Most often, leases and rental agreements are broken by your tenants. Work with them and then get busy finding a new tenant.
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For all of your tenant screening, background check, and credit check needs, turn to rent-prep.


  1. Well.. if nothing changed on the lease terms it is common to just let the lease roll month to month. The lease should state something about the terms going month to month after the initial term expires. In which case, you wouldn’t need a new lease unless there was something that needed to be changed.

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