A lease is a legally binding contract between a landlord and tenant. Thus, when you sign a lease in a new apartment, read over everything carefully and make sure you understand what you are agreeing to do and agreeing to refrain from doing. If you break any of your lease terms, your landlord can sue you or charge you penalty fees for breaking the lease. You can sue your landlord or withhold rent if he fails to fulfill his duties as outlined in the lease.
Non-payment of Rent
If you do not pay your rent as agreed, you are breaching your agreement with your landlord. Many leases have a late payment clause stating that you must pay a late fee if your rent is more than five days late. The late fee must not be more than 5 percent of your rental amount. If you do not pay your rent at all, your landlord can go to court to have you evicted for breaking your lease.
Other Tenant Breaches of Contract
Tenants also breach their rental contract whenever they do anything that is strictly prohibited by the lease. For example, making excessive noise that disturbs other tenants may be a breach of contract if your lease specifies that you will not make such noise. Other common lease violations include allowing others to move in without getting written permission from your landlord and vacating the premises before the lease term is up.
When you sign a lease, you usually agree to live in an apartment for a certain length of time, typically one to two years. If you move out before the lease term is up, you are breaking your lease and your landlord can still hold you responsible for the rent. Most leases have an early termination clause that require you to pay a penalty fee if you move out before the lease term is up.
Landlord Breach of Contract
Landlords breach rental contracts when they fail to fulfill their duties under the lease. For example, if a landlord fails to make repairs after the tenant notifies the landlord of the need for repairs, the landlord breaches the lease terms. Tenants have the right to sue the landlord for damages or to withhold rent from the landlord until necessary repairs are made. Contact an attorney if you are in this situation, especially if you plan to withhold rent. You must prove good cause for withholding rent to avoid eviction.
- Law Info: Alabama Breach of Lease
- Illinois State Bar Association: Landlord-Tenant Issues
- Georgia Consumer Protection Division. "If I Terminate My Lease Early, Can My Landlord Keep My Security Deposit and Charge Me a Fee?" Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Oregon State Bar. "Fees and Deposits." Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Wisconsin State Legislature. "704.29 Recovery of Rent and Damages by Landlord; Mitigation." Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Realtor.com®. "Beyond the Security Deposit: When Can Your Landlord Sue You for Property Damage?" Accessed April 6, 2020.
- The Judicial Branch of California. "Security Deposits." Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Updater. "Breaking a Lease: Everything to Know." Accessed April 6, 2020.
- New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. "Lease Information Bulletin," Page 3. Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Could Late Rent Payments or Problems With a Landlord Be in My Credit Report?" Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Experian. "Does Breaking a Lease Affect Your Credit?" Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Experian. "How Long Does It Take for Information to Come Off Your Credit Reports?" Accessed April 6, 2020.
- New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. "Lease Information Bulletin," Page 2. Accessed April 6, 2020.
- Michigan Department of Attorney General. "Other Legal Protections and Rights Provided By State And Federal Law." Accessed Apr. 23, 2020.
Jack Ori has been a writer since 2009. He has worked with clients in the legal, financial and nonprofit industries, as well as contributed self-help articles to various publications.