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5 Legal Documents You’ll Need to End a Residential Lease

Leases are temporary arrangements by their nature. Even though both parties are expecting the lease to end at some point, it’s important to protect everyone’s rights by doing it properly. Here are the different ways to end a residential lease and the documents you will need to make the process legal.


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Tenant Moves Out with Proper Notice 

The most common way to end a lease is the Tenant Notice of Intent to Move. This is a notice by the tenant to the landlord that they will not be exercising their option to renew the lease and will be moving out by the end of their current lease. This notice can sometimes contain the tenant’s forwarding address for things like the return of the security deposit, but the tenant may send that information separately if they don’t have their new address yet.

The tenant typically must give the landlord notice by the time specified in the lease. For example, it is common for a lease to require that the tenant give the landlord at least 30 days’ notice or the lease will convert to month-to-month. Some states may place restrictions on the amount of notice needed such as no more than 60 days. In that case, if the lease requires 90 days’ notice, the landlord generally can’t actually enforce penalties on the tenant as long as they gave notice at least 60 days in advance.

Landlord and Tenant Agree to Cancel the Lease 

A landlord and tenant can mutually agree to cancel a lease early with an Agreement to Cancel Lease. Since this is a change to the lease that both parties signed, it requires the agreement of both parties. In some cases, the landlord and tenant may agree that it’s mutually beneficial to cancel the lease early. In other cases, the landlord may negotiate an early termination fee with the tenant.

If the landlord asks for an early termination fee, it must be under any limits set by law. For example, the landlord can’t ask for three months’ rent as an early termination fee if the statutory limit is two months.

Original Tenant, New Tenant, and Landlord Agree to Lease Assignment

Another option is to transfer the lease to a new tenant using a Lease Assignment. The Lease Assignment transfers the obligations under the lease from the original tenant to the new tenant. After the transfer, the original tenant has no obligations under the lease.

A Lease Assignment requires the agreement of the original tenant, new tenant, and landlord. The landlord may negotiate to have the new tenant sign an extended lease as well. Depending on the terms of the original lease and local laws, the landlord may be required to consent to a lease assignment if the proposed new tenant meets the landlord’s preestablished credit, income, and other application criteria.

Original Tenant, New Tenant, and Landlord Agree to Lease Assumption

Another option to transfer a lease to a new tenant is a Lease Assumption. This is what most people think of when they think of subleasing a rental they don’t intend to return to. A Lease Assumption is similar to a Lease Assignment except that the original tenant remains responsible for the lease. For example, if the new tenant does not pay rent during the term of the original lease, the landlord can seek payment from the original tenant.

Landlord Has Legal Grounds to Evict the Tenant

If the tenant doesn’t comply with the terms of their lease, the landlord may also serve an Eviction Notice. An eviction requires the tenant to move out before the term of the lease is over. Grounds for eviction may include non-payment of rent or violating lease rules.

Depending on the reason for the eviction, the landlord may or may not be required to give the tenant an opportunity to fix the violation before beginning the process. The landlord must give a minimum amount of notice that varies by the terms of the lease, local law, and the reason for the eviction. The tenant can either agree to move out or challenge the eviction in court. It is very important for landlords to understand that they cannot remove a tenant or otherwise restrict their access to the property without following the legal process set out by local eviction laws. Violations may result in a judge awarding civil damages to the tenant and even possible criminal charges against the landlord.

If you want to make sure you’re following local landlord-tenant laws or need help getting a form customized for your situation, contact a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for fast and affordable advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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