In order to terminate a property lease, most commonly in the form of an apartment lease, the tenant must stop paying rent and leave the premises permanently.  If the tenant only stops paying rent and does not move out, this does not terminate the lease and therefore the tenant still has the duty to pay rent under the lease.

When Does the Tenant Have the Right to Terminate a Lease?

  • Destruction of Premises: Statutes and lease provisions commonly allow the tenant to terminate the lease if the premises have been destroyed.
  • Building in Disrepair: If the landlord has a duty to make repairs to the building under the lease or a statute, and does not make the repairs after being to asked to do so by the tenant, the tenant may be able to terminate the lease.
  • Habitability: In most states there are statutes that make it a duty of the landlord to keep a tenant's building habitable. If the landlord does not perform this duty, the law may allow the tenant to terminate the lease.
  • Violation of Building Code: A landlord not obeying a building code generally does not permit a tenant to terminate a lease.
  • Failure to Repair Common Areas: A tenant cannot terminate a lease if a landlord does not repair a common area, like a courtyard or swimming pool, unless the tenant has absolutely no way of using the common area.

When Does the Tenant Have a Right to Rent Reduction?

Generally, a tenant is not entitled to a reduction in rent if the building falls into disrepair, even if the landlord refuses to make repairs. However, a tenant may pay for a repair herself if the landlord does not immediately fix the problem, and then deduct that amount from the rent the tenant usually pays.

Should I Consult a Real Estate Lawyer?

Landlord-tenant laws tend to be rather complex and vary from state to state. Before taking action to terminate your lease as a tenant, you should consult a real estate lawyer to get a sense of what your lease and local statutes allow you to do and what actions they prohibit.