How Can a Landlord Break a Lease?

by Jonathan Lister ; Updated July 27, 2017

The relationship between a landlord and a tenant largely depends on how each party follows the lease agreement. If the landlord makes timely repairs to the property and the tenant pays his rent on-time, things usually run smoothly. If a tenant chooses to treat the property poorly and violate the terms of his lease agreement, his landlord may have an opportunity to break the lease agreement.

Non-Payment of Rent

A landlord may move to break a lease and evict his tenant if the tenant has not paid his rent by the time it is due. A legal eviction is obtained through a court order that allows the landlord to legally repossess his property and requires the local sheriff's authority to supervise the eviction of the tenant. A landlord is also required to inform his tenant in writing at each phase of the eviction process from when the rent is first delinquent to when the court schedules the eviction hearing. This ensures the tenant is fully informed of the process and has the opportunity to pay the back rent to avoid eviction.

Violation of Lease Terms

Most lease agreements have rules pertaining to acceptable noise levels, treatment of other tenants and guest conduct while in the rental unit. If a tenant is continual violation of any of these terms, her landlord may move to break the lease and evict the tenant. The legal process is similar to when a tenant has not paid the rent. The tenant is required to be informed of the landlord's intent to file eviction proceedings and must also be informed of the date of the court hearing. All the landlord is required to prove at such a hearing is the tenant's willful violation of the terms identified in the lease.

Tenant Criminal Conviction

If a tenant becomes a significant risk to other tenants by means of a criminal conviction for such crimes as distribution of illegal drugs or assault on a landlord may immediately move to break that tenant's lease. Most states provide an accelerated eviction process for a landlord attempting to remove such a tenant from a rental property to ensure the safety of other tenants and that the illegal behavior no longer takes place on the premises.

By Mutual Agreement

A lease agreement is a contract between a tenant and his landlord. If both parties agree to break the lease, this can be done legally without the need of the court order. A document should still be drawn up detailing the reasons for the mutual agreement to break the lease. This document should be notarized and signed by both the tenant and the landlord. This protects both parties from any future legal action in case the landlord tries to sue the tenant for rent owed or if the tenant tries to sue the landlord for wrongful eviction.

About the Author

Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.