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Written, fixed-term leases offer a landlord the maximum protection against a sudden break in cash flow.  But it is important to keep in mind that there are some circumstances where a tenant is allowed to break the lease — with no consequences:

Military Tenants Federal law requires a landlord to be flexible when it comes to soldiers and their dependents.  If a soldier is given orders to relocate for more than 90 days during the term of the lease, the landlord must relieve them of the obligations under the lease.  The tenant is required to provide a notice regarding the orders.

Domestic Violence Victims New laws now in effect require a landlord to help out when a tenant becomes a victim of domestic violence and has to abandon a residence for personal safety.  These protections vary from one state to the next. Some states require the tenant to provide some notice before they stop paying rent. The tenant may be required to provide a police report. Talk to someone at your local housing office to find out what the rules are in your area.

Misrepresentation It’s never a good idea to promise more than you can deliver when it comes to rental properties.  If you sugar-coated a feature of the property, or failed to point out a significant negative aspect of the rental — uncontained bed bugs, a high crime rate, nuisance neighbors, parking prohibitions, or similar problems that make the property unsuitable for the new tenant, it may be a good idea to allow the tenant to break the lease.  If not, you could be facing a nasty lawsuit, and if the tenant wins, you stand to lose much more than the rent.

Disrepair A landlord has the obligation to keep the rental property in good repair.  If basic services fail for an extended time, or all or a portion of the property becomes uninhabitable due to poor maintenance, construction, contamination, infestations or other scourges, the tenant may have the legal right to vacate without paying additional rent or sacrificing the deposit, regardless of what the lease says.

Early Termination Clauses Many landlords choose to include a lease termination clause that allows the tenant an out if something changes — a job relocation, caring for a sick parent, or any other of life’s challenges.  By providing the right to terminate and allowing a specific time period for notice — often 60 days, the landlord can minimize the shock of an unexpected vacancy.

With AAOA, landlords have resources at their fingertips. Check out our Landlord Forms page.

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  • GARY CARLSON

    On the domestic violence issue above it’s suggested that the “local housing office” be contacted. What are examples of a “local housing office”?

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