The ways that a landlord may terminate a lease agreement with a tenant vary from city to city.  Generally, a landlord can terminate the lease of a tenant: 

  • By agreement to end the tenancy with the tenant
  • When the lease ends:
    • Tenancy for a term leases may require prior notice of termination by the landlord, usually 30 or 60 days
    • Periodic tenancy (i.e., a month to month lease) leases can be terminated by either the landlord or tenant for almost any reason; sometimes prior notice is required (usually 30 days)
    • Tenancy at Will – Either party may terminate at any time, as long as prior notice was given.
  • Pursuant to the just cause eviction statute of the city

Landlords usually do this by sending out written lease termination notices to affected tenants.

How Does a Tenant Terminate a Lease with a Landlord?

Leases are contracts which bind both sides, which means that tenants may wish to terminate a lease before the landlord does. A tenant may terminate lease when:

  • Periodic Tenancy – (i.e., a month to month lease) leases can be terminated by either the landlord or tenant for almost any reason; sometimes prior notice is required (usually 30 days)
  • Tenancy at Will – Either party may terminate at any time, as long as prior notice was given.
  • Landlord Violation of the Lease – If the property is inhospitable against the lease’s requirements, the tenant can insist on leaving

What if My Rental Unit is Subject to Rent Control?

If your city has rent control laws your landlord may not be able to force you to leave after your lease expires.  For more information about specific lease termination lawyers consult a landlord and tenant lawyer.

Can I Stay In The Property Even Though the Lease Was Terminated?

Staying in the property after a lease was terminated is known as a “hold-over tenant”. Legally, the tenant may be considered a trespasser once the lease has expired. If a tenant is a hold over, the landlord may bring eviction proceedings against the tenant and charge the tenant for rent, as well as any additional fees to cover unexpected costs. Keep in mind that an eviction is a court order; the eviction becomes a public record and other landlords may access the information in a background check.

The landlord also has the option to renew the lease if the landlord accepts a rent check for another term of tenancy. This is called a “month to month” tenancy.

Are There Any Defenses For a Tenant To a Lease Termination?

There are a few defenses a tenant may pursue to delay or halt a lease termination:

  • Landlord Violation of the Lease – The tenant can claim that the landlord broke the terms of the contract first.
  • Illegal Retaliation – The landlord cannot punish a tenant if the tenant makes a reasonable request to enforce the lease.
  • Violation of Eviction Procedure – The landlord cannot lock out the tenant or do anything else which may make the property inhospitable for the tenant, such as turning off the water or violating the tenant’s right to privacy

Should I Consult a Lawyer about My Right to Terminate a Lease?

Landlord-tenant laws tend to be rather complex and vary from city to city.  Before taking action to terminate your lease as a landlord, you should consult an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer to get a sense of what your lease and local statutes allow you to do and what actions they prohibit.  If you are a tenant, a landlord-tenant lawyer can help you if you feel that your lease is being unlawfully terminated.