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When Do Tenants Have the Right to Break a Lease?

When Do Tenants Have the Right to Break a Lease?

When Do Tenants Have the Right to Break a Lease?


When Do Tenants Have the Right to Break a Lease?

There are certain times when a tenant is on safe legal ground to break their unexpired lease. Although you may have a good reason to leave your lease prematurely, you're still liable for substantial damages unless it's legally acceptable for you to leave.

Active Military Service

Under federal and California state law, tenants who have active military service are eligible to validly break their lease. If the tenant enters active military service after they've signed the lease or are to be redeployed for a time of not less than 90 days, then they have the foundation to establish breaking their lease without further responsibility for paying the remaining rent.

What Kind of Military Service Counts?

For these purposes, California regards the following as acceptable military service:

  • Active-duty members of the Armed Forces
  • This includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard
  • Also, full-time members of the activated National Guard, State Military Reserve, and the Naval Militia

Proper Notice to the Landlord for Military Service Termination

The process includes providing the following:

  • Written notice to the landlord
  • That the lease was signed before entering active duty
  • Documentation that the active duty will last for at least the next 90 days

Uninhabitable Conditions

All housing must be habitable and meet local and state housing codes. If a tenant's unit doesn't meet these standards, they likely can break the lease under the theory of constructive eviction. For instance, if the landlord doesn't make necessary repairs within a reasonable time and tenant follows specific steps, they may be able to leave early.

Illegal Units

Any unit must have a certificate of occupancy. When it doesn't, it's considered illegal. This includes living spaces like converted garages, in-laws, and attached rooms. If the unit is illegal, then the lease is generally considered void. Typically, this means that no rent is owed, and the tenant can vacate without further obligation.

Harassment and Privacy Violations

A landlord can only enter a tenant's unit under specific circumstances and after giving proper notice. When this is violated, it can be considered harassment. This can also be true if your landlord turns off your services like electricity or changes your locks. In these types of situations, a tenant can leave within a reasonable time without penalty.

Abuse Victims

Tenants who are victims of abuse are allowed to break their lease. This includes:

  • Domestic violence victims
  • Sexual abuse victims
  • Elder abuse victims
  • If a member of tenant's household is also a victim
  • If a member of tenant's family is a victim

Other Permissible Ways

  • If the lease includes terms that allow a tenant to terminate early
  • In leases with early termination clauses, the tenant can pay a penalty
  • If the landlord agrees to let the tenant break the lease

 Need Help with Breaking your Lease

If you need to break your lease, but you don't fall under one of these categories, there are helpful ways to lessen your financial obligations. By coming to an agreement with your landlord or finding a replacement, you may be able to handle the situation. However, there are times where you still may need an experienced attorney. Talk to a Wolford Wayne attorney who can assist you. Contact us today for more information.

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For more information or to discuss your legal situation, call us today at (415) 649-6203 for a phone consultation or submit an inquiry below. Please note our firm can only assist tenants residing in San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley.

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