What Can Be Done If a Landlord Breaks a Lease?

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A lease or rental agreement is a legally binding contract between a tenant and a landlord. The rental agreement helps to protect the landlord´s property and rights. A landlord can, however, violate the lease if he breaches the legal requirements of the lease or fails to provide a safe and habitable space. If you can prove the landlord’s breach in court, you can legally vacate the premises without a notice period.

Why Landlords Break Lease

A landlord can break a lease for various reasons. For example, in most states, a landlord can break a lease if the tenancy causes problems for the landlord or your neighbors. Additionally, most states allow landlords to terminate a rental agreement if you stop paying rent, breach the terms of the lease agreement or violate the law, for example distributing illegal substances from the rental property. Further, a landlord can terminate your tenancy if you cause damage to the property or a disturbance to other tenants. On the other hand, a landlord usually cannot break a rental agreement to sell the property. A lease does not prohibit a property sale; it transfers the rights and obligations of the lease to the new owner.

Notice of Termination

When breaking a lease, the landlord must issue a formal notice of termination that orders you to either take a certain action such as paying rent or correcting a violation of the lease, or vacate the property. The landlord may also give an unconditional notice. With an unconditional notice, the landlord does not give you the opportunity to correct the behavior that caused the breach of the rental agreement. If you do not fix the violation within a set time, the landlord can take legal action against you to repossess the premises.

If You Are Facing Eviction

The laws that concern evicting tenants because of lapsed rent or lease violations vary between states. To avoid eviction, you should pay the overdue rent within the given time frame established by the eviction notification. If any other issues exist, you should speak to your landlord to try to correct the situation. However, some issues may not be negotiable, for example, lease violations that involve criminal activity or the safety of other individuals. Many landlords allow tenants to correct the first breach of lease terms but will proceed with an eviction if problems continue. An eviction will damage your rental history and credit rating.


You can file a counter-claim in defense of the landlord´s charges if you believe your landlord does not have grounds to break the lease. You should check your rights under the consumer protection laws in your state or speak with an attorney before filing a claim against your landlord. To stop the eviction proceedings, you must prove that your landlord´s actions were unlawful. It can also help your defense claim if you can show that your landlord breached state or local housing codes. If you're having problems with your landlord, however, you should attempt to resolve the problem directly with the landlord prior to initiating legal action.


About the Author

Brian Bass has written about accountancy-related topics and accounting trends for "Account Today." He works as a senior auditor specializing in manufacturing and financial services companies for one of the Big 5 accounting firms. Bass hold a master's degree in accounting from the University of Utah.