What to Do About a Breach of Lease Agreement

Lease with checkbook and house keys
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The contract between a tenant and a landlord details all the rights and responsibilities of both parties when they enter into a rental agreement. The lease is considered ​breached​ when one of the parties fails to meet one of the agreements as set out in the lease’s contract. This can happen on both sides of the agreement and for a number of reasons.

Lease Breaches as a Landlord

As the landlord in a particular contract, you should know your own rights, responsibilities and expectations. If the tenant fails to pay rent on the agreed-upon schedule, breaks a rule as laid out in the contract, conducts illegal activities in the rental property, or is responsible for significant damage to the property, the landlord can consider the lease breached by the tenant. When it’s the tenant who breaks the lease, the landlord’s first step after having a professional discussion with said tenant is normally moving forward in the eviction process.

You also need to be aware of the landlord–tenant laws in your state and how they relate to matters like upkeep, repair and other maintenance work on your property. The states detail the expected relationship between renter and landlord, and they define which party has what rights in any particular situation or disagreement, such as the termination of a lease agreement by the tenant.

Breaches for Tenants

As the tenant in a rental property, you have the right to consider your lease breached if the landlord fails to uphold any of the stipulations in your lease contract. For example, most landlords are required to continue to perform required maintenance on their properties to keep the space functioning at the level agreed-upon in the contract. If, for example, your landlord has been ignoring your requests for a critical repair, or if accidental (i.e., weather-related) damage has been done to the property and the landlord has not yet addressed the issue, you may be able to file for breach of contract.

You should also be aware of the landlord–tenant laws in your state to help you shape your expectations and understand the responsibilities you have to the property. Occasionally, even seemingly minor decorating such as painting or nailing something to the wall can end up being a breach of contract due to the damage to the value of the structure.

Managing a Breach of Contract

When a contract is breached, the first step is to have a formal discussion about the contract and the current situation. Previous communications about this issue may have occurred that led to no course of action. In these cases, either the landlord or tenant can call in a ​mediator,​ who will help direct the conversation in a helpful direction with no bias of her own. Sometimes, these issues can be handled outside of court simply by having a straightforward conversation about expectations, governmental laws regarding renting, and the policies set forth in the rental contract.

Sometimes, the next step in the process is to sue the other party for a lease breach. For tenants, suing your landlord for a breach of contract may be the only way to get the landlord to pay attention to an ongoing issue if he has previously avoided addressing it. For a landlord, the eviction process can be a first step. Suing the renter can be an alternate path, if (for example) the landlord wants to recover money for damages incurred but does not want to go through the eviction process for whatever reason.

In all cases, moving to a court case to sue the other party is probably the most-expensive and time-consuming option. It’s best to understand all the contract expectations beforehand and use formal discussions to work out any issues.

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