Your Tenant Wants To Break The Lease? What To Do Next...

Real Estate Broker/Owner with KEAP Real Estate BRE# 01912137


It is an unfortunate event when a landlord has to face a tenant who chooses not to abide with the terms of their lease.  What should a landlord do when a tenant breaks the lease terms?  This is a question asked by many who suffer the consequences of signing a lease with a tenant who lacks the simple responsibility of following the terms and conditions written in a lease.  There are many actions a landlord can take when found in this situation.

To begin, the landlord or his/her agent should always read the lease agreement and explain the new tenants what the terms mean in the agreement.  Most of the time, tenants don’t read what they sign; therefore, not knowing what the terms are in the agreement, they break their lease unknowingly.  Many landlords and agents fail to explain the terms and conditions of the lease to the tenants.  I know that it is the tenant's responsibility to read the lease agreement to its fullest before signing it, but we all know that most tenants don't read them or read them but can't understand most of the wording in the contract.  As agents, it is our fiduciary responsibility to explain everything to our clients (whether it be landlord or tenant or both).  

A landlord should also require a tenant to provide a written statement explaining why he/she cannot remain within the lease terms and why he/she needs to terminate the lease early.  Sometimes the tenants have viable reasons on why they cannot abide by the lease terms.  I cannot emphasize enough on how important it is to be a good listener and keep an open mind.  Tenants are human beings too just like the landlords and their agents.  Emergencies happen in life which can change the circumstances.  I had a tenant client (I was representing both the landlord and the tenant) not too long ago who had to come out of his lease early because his company was moving him to another state.  Would it be fair if we put our both feet in one shoe and told him that he had to remain financially responsible for the remainder of his lease term while clearly the move wasn't his choice?  We could have, by law, but we didn't.  I explained to both the landlord and the tenant what his options were.  We decided to assist this gentleman with his relocation.  He staid in his unit while I started marketing it for lease.  I found a tenant within two weeks of placing the unit back on the market.  In the meanwhile, I did the pre-move-out inspection and informed the current tenant what needs to be done before he can move out.  While he was fixing the unit, I drafted a lease and performed all necessary screening for the new tenant.  To cut the long story short, I found a new and very well qualified tenant who, herself, was moving to U.S. due to business relocation (actress).  The old tenant moved out having prepared the unit for an immediate move-in.  A day later, the new tenant moved in.  Problem solved!!! The old tenant was happy because he wasn't penalized for anything.  The landlord was happy because he only lost one day of rent.  The new tenant was happy because she found a new home to live in while dealing with the stress of moving countries. It was a win, win, win situation.  

Furthermore, just because a tenant decides that he/she wants to vacate the premises before the maturity of the lease term, this does not free him/her from the responsibilities agreed upon in the lease agreement.  For tenants who are just simply irresponsible, the landlord has rights to take them to court and request monetary damages.  In my 14 years of management experience, I have never experienced a landlord taking a tenant to court to request monetary damages.  Yes this option is available, but it is time consuming and can get very expensive. 

Yes, it is rather irritating when the tenant breaks the lease or any terms in the lease agreement, but with proper communication and transparency, it is very possible to resolve most problems amicably.  I strongly believe that it is our job, as REALTORS and landlord/tenant representatives, to do our best to advise our clients and provide amicable solutions for such situations.  It is our job and duty to be the negotiators keeping both parties best interests in mind.


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Comments (1)

Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

When they want to go there is nothing we can do to stop them, just grateful when the let me know ahead of time so that I can get started finding their replacement.

The quicker I find the replaceement the quicker the bleeding stops for me and the tenant (who is still liable for rent up until the replacement is found).

May 09, 2016 02:47 PM
Amy Palian

I absolutely agree with you Bob.  This is one of the reasons why I follow up with the tenants 90 days prior to their lease ending to get a head start in case they decide to move out.  I utilize a system which lets me know which lease is going to end in 90 days.  As for breaking the lease, I agree the sooner we know the better and the more we can help.  Having said that, I also want to emphasize that there are tenants who will not inform in advance about breaking their lease AND they will not pay either.  I have come across this once in my career and I was able to act as the middle woman to smooth out the transaction.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts and opinion. 

May 10, 2016 01:38 AM

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