How to Handle a Lease Break Amicably
A number of situations can cause a tenant to break a lease early. While you do have certain legal protections as a landlord, there are also some steps that you can take to try to make the lease break as pain-free as possible for both you and your tenant. Understanding the law and the options that are available to you will help you with choosing the best plan for dealing with a broken lease.
Reasons for Leaving
If your tenants are leaving because they have enlisted in the military or have military orders causing them to report far away from the rental property, they are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This act applies to those who are in the armed forces, the activated National Guard, the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In this case, your tenant is expected to provide you with a 30-day notice and may break the lease without repercussions even if there is time left on the lease. If your tenants leave for any other reasons, they are still expected to pay for the remainder of the time left on the lease. There are, however, certain factors that need to be considered.
Charging for a Broken Lease
If included in your lease, you may be able to charge an early termination fee to a tenant who breaks a lease. You can also continue to charge rent, but you are legally required in most states to actively attempt to re-rent the property. If you find a new tenant before the lease expires, you can no longer charge the original tenant for the rest of the time remaining on the lease.
To make the process easier for both you and your tenant, you may ask the tenant to help you find someone to take over the lease. In this case, you will still want to screen the potential new tenant to ensure this person is a good candidate for taking over the lease. Not only does this option prevent you from having to look for a new renter, but it can also help to make the transition from one tenant to the next go more smoothly. In addition, since your current tenant is likely to know the new tenant, you may be able to get the new tenant to show the place to the possible replacement. In the end, this saves you from doing the work of finding a new tenant while increasing the possibility that the lease will continue to be paid until its original end date.
Unfortunately, there are times when tenants are not so cooperative and may be unwilling to pay the fees and costs associated with breaking a lease. When this happens, you may need to take the tenant to court in order to collect on the money you are owed. With the help of an experienced and dedicated property management team on your side, this process can be completed in a much more efficient and effective manner.