There are times when a lease agreement no longer works for either party. Because contracts are voluntary documents, the two parties involved can agree to end the lease – but if one party disagrees, this is not a voluntary termination and the lease still has the force of law. You don't need to file anything to voluntarily terminate your lease, but drafting a new contract indicating that the termination is voluntary can protect your legal rights.
A lease is terminated voluntarily when both the landlord and tenant agree to end the lease. Ideally, you'll sign a termination agreement outlining the move out date and when the rent ceases to be payable, otherwise the tenant could be on the hook for the rent for the rest of the lease term.
What is Voluntary Termination?
To terminate your lease, you and your landlord will have to agree not only to end the lease, but also to the terms under which the lease ends. You'll have to decide the final move-out day and how much rent is owed for the remainder of your time on the property. Lease termination doesn't absolve either party of its obligations under the lease or state law. You'll still be required to pay rent, and your landlord must still maintain the house in safe, inhabitable condition.
Signing a Termination Agreement
When you terminate a lease early, it's a good idea to develop a termination agreement that outlines the responsibilities of each party – such as the rent amount, how long you have to move out and when your landlord will inspect the property. If you don't have a termination agreement and you and your landlord get into a dispute, a court will base its decision on the original lease; it could appear that you violated the lease by moving out, even if you and your landlord agreed to let you move out.
Termination vs. Breach
A voluntary termination is not the same as termination due to a breach of the lease. Your landlord can terminate your lease and begin eviction proceedings if you fail to pay rent, and you may be able to terminate the lease if the property is uninhabitable or your landlord repeatedly violates the lease. This sort of termination is voluntary for one party, but is considered termination for cause. If you want to terminate for cause and your landlord won't let you, you could end up fighting over the lease in court.
Examples of Voluntary Lease Termination
There are a number of circumstances in which you might voluntarily terminate. If you are unhappy with the property and the landlord doesn't want to make repairs, for example, your landlord might let you move out rather than make the repairs. If you move to another state and find a new tenant for your landlord, your landlord could agree to an early termination. However, if you and your landlord don't agree to the termination and its terms, the termination is considered a breach rather than a voluntary termination.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.