When Is Breaking a Lease Illegal?

A broken lease can often lead to an eviction, which greatly impacts your credit report. This raises the question; is it illegal to break a lease? The simple answer is that it is not inherently illegal to break a lease, depending on certain circumstances.

By understanding the following information, you can be confident in the legality of breaking a lease before you do so, as well as whether or not you have been unjustly evicted. This can aid in any legal proceedings between you and your current or former landlord and may help get an eviction removed from your record.

When Is It Legal To Break a Lease?

The law behind lease agreements may change between states, as well as because of the lease itself. However, there are several reasons for breaking a lease that are not only valid but entirely legal. If you have faced or are facing any consequences for breaking your lease, you may be able to refute them if you left your lease legally.

These reasons include, but are not limited to, the following.

Privacy Violation

If a landlord infringes upon your privacy in a way that violates national privacy laws, you may be able to break your lease legally. Landlords have the right to enter the property without your expressed permission as long as they give proper notice or have a valid reason. As these are subjective terms, unfortunately, it can be difficult to argue a privacy violation case in court.

Some states are stricter than others concerning notice before a visit, requiring 24 or 48 hours of advanced notice; however, this is not nationwide, so you should do your research before breaking your lease or contesting an eviction.

Generally, a valid reason for entry must be at least communicated to the tenant. If your landlord regularly enters without permission and goes through your belongings without an expressed reason, and you can prove this, you may have grounds to break your lease.

Illegal Rentals

As well as operating within the full extent of the law, such as legal ownership of the rented property, a rental must also abide by landlord-tenant law. If the property or the rental agreement is found to be illegal in nature, a lease can be broken legally.

Violation of Health and Safety Codes

The expected health and safety standards of your rented space are dependent on local regulations and must be upheld by yourself and your landlord. Everyone should ensure they know what the local laws and regulations about health and safety are, both to keep themselves operating legally and to know when others are operating wrongfully.

Breaking a lease outside of the proper term is completely legal if the landlord is found to have been operating outside of health and safety standards during your tenancy. For this to hold up in court, the tenant must be found to have notified the landlord and given them proper time to fix the issue.

Victims of Domestic Violence

While often at no fault of the landlord, a lease can be broken if the tenant, a household member, or a family member is a victim of domestic abuse. In order to do this legally, the landlord must be provided with either the domestic abuse protective order or a signed certification of domestic abuse.

In the latter case, the document must be signed by an employee of a contracted Department of Children and Family Services Shelter.

A landlord may also enquire as to the name and address of the abuser, and this information must be freely given if the lease is to be broken legally.

Active-Duty Military

If you are a member of the military and called to duty in a way that would cause you to break your lease, you are legally allowed to do so without incurring any penalties. This is in compliance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, allowing termination of a lease under certain circumstances without incurring early-termination fees.

Early Vacate Clauses

The Early Vacate Clause is the part in every lease where the landlord and the tenant agree to the procedures, expectations, and exceptions when it comes to breaking a lease on the side of either party. These clauses may allow a tenant to break a lease in ways other than those protected by the law.

Common exceptions for breaking a lease offered by early vacate clauses include the death of a loved one and other major life-altering events.

When the Landlord Breaks the Lease

Landlords are legally allowed to break a lease as long as they have valid cause and give the tenant reasonable notice to move out. Most often, landlords break leases because their tenant has broken the lease first, thus rendering the contract null and void. As a landlord, you should be fully aware of the laws surrounding breaking a lease before you do so.

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Posted - 03/10/2023