Terminating a lease agreement can be a difficult situation for landlords, but understanding the legal ways to do so can help you navigate it.
Acting as a landlord in the United States can be both rewarding and challenging, and one of the tricky situations you may face is the need to terminate a lease, usually using a 30-day notice to vacate.
While terminating leases is not something you want to do regularly, there are certain situations in which it is legally permissible and necessary. We took a closer look at some of the legal ways landlords can terminate a lease in the United States and the main reasons that this may be necessary.
Why Might A Landlord Terminate A Lease?
There are several reasons that a landlord may decide to terminate an existing lease, and some of the most common situations include:
Breach of lease terms
If your tenant has failed to follow the terms of the lease agreement, you can terminate the lease with a breach of contract notice. In some cases, you may be able to evict the tenant for breach of contract, depending on the severity of the breach and your state’s laws.
Non-payment of rent
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If your tenant fails to pay rent on time or refuses to pay rent at all, you may have grounds for terminating their lease, and this is a common reason. Depending on the laws of your state, you may need to provide a certain number of days for the tenant to pay their rent before you can pursue an eviction.
If the terms of your lease agreement have expired, you can terminate the lease by providing written notice to your tenant. The length of notice required will vary depending on the terms of your lease agreement and the laws of your state.
If you are renting to a service member who is leaving active duty, you may be able to terminate their lease early. Under the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA), landlords must provide a minimum of 90 days notice to tenants who are being deployed for military service and who wish to terminate their lease early.
The tenant breaks the lease
If your tenant decides to break their lease, you may be able to terminate the agreement and evict them. However, this will depend on the laws of your state and the terms of your lease agreement; some states may require you to provide a certain amount of notice before proceeding with an eviction.
In addition, it is important to note that some states may require the landlord to mitigate damages by trying to re-rent the property; this means that the tenant may be liable for any losses incurred by the landlord in finding a new tenant.
If your tenant is engaging in illegal activity on the property, such as drug use or prostitution, you may be able to terminate their lease and evict them. In addition to notifying your tenant in writing of the termination, you may need to provide proof of the illegal activity to local law enforcement, depending on where you are located.
How To Legally Terminate A Lease
In order to ensure that the termination of a lease is lawful, landlords are required to follow several specific steps, and these include:
Write and serve a termination notice
To legally terminate a lease agreement, landlords must provide written notice to the tenant informing them of their intention to do so – this is known as a termination notice. The document should be served to the tenant in a timely manner, and the length of notice required will vary depending on state laws.
Include a reason
The termination notice must include a valid reason for why you are terminating the lease, such as non-payment of rent or breach of contract. The document should also inform the tenant of their right to dispute the eviction if they believe it is invalid.
Allow a response
The tenant must be given a certain amount of time to respond to the notice, and they may dispute the termination or offer an alternate resolution, such as paying any outstanding rent that is due. If the tenant disputes the eviction, landlords must follow their state’s legal procedures for resolving such disputes.
Follow eviction procedures
If the tenant does not respond to the termination notice or if they do not dispute the eviction, landlords must then follow the legal process for evicting a tenant in their state. This typically involves filing an eviction lawsuit with the local court and attending a hearing before a judge can issue an order for eviction.
Allowing A Second Chance
In some cases, the landlord may choose to allow the tenant to remain in the rental property if they pay any outstanding rent that is due or rectify any issues related to a breach of contract. This can be beneficial for landlords as it avoids going through the hassle and expense of an eviction.
Terminating a lease agreement can be a difficult situation for landlords, but understanding the legal ways to do so can help you navigate this, as well as protect your rights and interests. Be sure to consult with an experienced attorney if you have any questions about the eviction process in your state – they will be able to provide valuable guidance and advice to keep you on track.
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