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Can a Landlord Legally Break a Lease?

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Marina Shlomov - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The lease that you have between the landlord and tenant is a legally-binding document. It states everything that you, as the landlord, intend to do for the duration of the agreement. And, it states everything that the tenant agrees to do while living in your rental property. 

While this contract is designed to stay in effect the entire time, there are times when things happen and the agreement needs to be broken. Now, we hear of tenants wanting to break leases all the time, but hearing about a landlord breaking the lease seems less common, doesn’t it? It does happen though – maybe even more than you think. 

So, can a landlord legally break a lease? Yes. Absolutely. 

There are obvious reasons when a landlord would want to break the lease agreement with a tenant, such as… 

  • The tenant is behind on rent payments. 
  • The tenant is engaging in illegal activity at your rental property. 
  • Unknown people residing at the property. 
  • Pets living at the property when no pets allowed. 
  • There is evidence of drug use taking place on the property. 

This is referred to as terminating with cause. But, what happens when your tenant didn’t do anything wrong, but you want them out for a different reason? What is legal?

Well, first of all, if it is in the lease, then it’s legal. This means that both parties agreed to it when the lease was signed. For instance, this could be a clause saying that you will give 60-days-notice if you decide to sell the property. 

However, if you don’t have any such clause in the lease, then don’t try to break it. You are legally required to follow the terms of the lease – means allowing the tenant to reside at the property throughout the length of the lease. In the example above, you are better off waiting until the lease expires before attempted to sell the property. 

The bottom line? You have a lease agreement to protect rights, both of the landlord and the tenant. Just because it is your rental property does not give you the right to take it away from your tenants while the lease is in effect. So, if it is in the lease – great! If not, wait!

 Marina Shlomov, a managing partner at ALH|Podland Realty and Atlanta Rental Homes Property Management is the author of many articles on Landlording, Real Estate, Rental Property Management, Atlanta Property Management, and Real Estate Investing. A residential builder in the state of Georgia since 1999, Marina is an investor herself. Her Atlanta property management company is intended “For Investors” and “By Investors” for a simple reason – she knows what investors’ goals are and she works hard to reach their goals. In her spare time, Marina likes to spend time with her family, friends, garden, read and travel. Check her out at www.alhpodland.com. You can find Marina’s articles and comments at @rentalhomesatl on Twitter, on Facebook, Google+, Blogger. and YouTubeBiggerPockets and REI CLub and LinkedIn.


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