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Breaking the Lease Early

PMI Elevation - Saturday, February 6, 2021
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Your property is leased, but the tenant wants to terminate it before it’s up. 

Even with an airtight rental agreement, there are still a number of legal exceptions that can enable them to break the lease without penalty, and there are some responsibilities that fall on the landlord in case this happens, too. It’s important to know the ins and outs of this process, because early termination is not uncommon. 

Usually, if a tenant breaks the lease, they are expected to pay the rent for the entire lease term. However, there are a number of situations where that won’t apply, allowing the tenant to legally terminate the lease before it’s up.

Victims of domestic violence are one group that has the right to break their lease, as long as a copy of the police report is provided, as well as meeting some other conditions. 

Members of the military that are entering active service can terminate a lease early under the federal War and National Defense Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This includes members of the “uniformed services”, which does include activated National Guard. Notice must be given to the landlord, and the lease will end 30 days after rent is next due – even if it’s before the agreement is up.

Some instances that allow tenants to leave early are the result of the landlord’s actions – or inaction. 

Colorado does not have a law that details how much notice a landlord must give before entering the rental unit. However, if they continually violate the tenant’s privacy, or harass the tenant by doing things like shutting off electricity or water, or changing locks, the tenant is justified breaking the lease. If you find yourself in a situation where you think it is a good idea to do these things, it might be time to call a professional residential property manager by searching for a Highlands Ranch Property Management Company or Centennial Property Manager.

Similarly, if the rental unit is in violation of state safety and health codes, a court can absolve the tenant’s responsibility for rent. However, there are some measures the tenant must follow before leaving due to a major issue. The issue must be serious – such as no electricity, mold, non-working essential systems (like toilets or sinks), or unsafe living conditions. (See our other video blog about the Colorado Warranty of Habitability for more information on this – or search on Google for us at Castle Rock Property Management.) 

Remember, just because a tenant has decided to move in with someone else, plans to purchase a house, or is getting relocated for their job, it doesn’t mean the landlord is bound to provide early release. But not all situations are the same. Be prepared with documentation to fight a false claim by keeping good documentation of maintenance records, etc. 

And compassion can come into play, too. Things like divorce, losing a job or getting that job transfer are usually instances where the landlord can be a little flexible with the tenant and work something out. Often, in any of these situations, if the landlord or tenant can find another tenant to fill the lease, both sides can work out an agreement beneficial for all sides.

As a landlord, just make sure to outline the fees and processes behind early termination in your rental agreement, and make sure the tenant understands them, as well. 

Contact Jim Shonts at PMI Elevation to find out more about the laws surrounding early termination of the lease for your rental property in Highlands Ranch, or anywhere else in Colorado.

Photo by Direct Media from StockSnap