An early lease termination letter is a document that a tenant sends to a landlord to formally request to end a lease agreement early. While a landlord isn’t legally required to end the lease early, the letter may convince them to do so anyway.
Note: If you’re a landlord seeking to end a month-to-month lease agreement, use an eviction notice instead.
What’s Included in an Early Lease Termination Letter?
Your early lease termination letter should be written in a formal tone, and include all of the following information:
- Tenant Name(s): Your name and contact information.
- Tenant Address: The address you’re vacating.
- Requested Termination Date: The date you need to vacate.
- Reason for Termination: Your reason for terminating the lease early.
- Penalties & Fees: The penalty fees you know you’ll be responsible for, and how you plan to pay them.
- Keys & Property: Information on how you’ll return the keys to the landlord.
- Tenant’s Forwarding Address: Your forwarding address and phone number.
- Dates & Signatures: The current date and your signature.
Depending on your situation, there may be other issues to resolve. For instance, if there’s a power or cable service that’s in your name, provide the date that these services will be terminated.
Your landlord may also need to inspect the property before refunding your security deposit (if they want to at all). In your early lease termination letter, request that a property inspection be scheduled as soon as possible.
How to Terminate Your Lease Early
In life, unavoidable events can happen within the rental term that require you to terminate the lease early, also known as breaking a lease. Sending an early lease termination letter is a polite and smart way to begin the discussion with your landlord. While your landlord technically isn’t required to let you break the lease, and can continue to collect money from you, it’s in their interest to come to an agreement with you.
After all, a lengthy, ugly, and costly eviction process is something that all parties want to avoid.
Step 1: Send the early lease termination letter to your landlord
With an early lease termination letter, you can explain why you need to terminate the lease early. For instance, you may need to break the lease because you lost your job, went through a divorce, or need to care for a sick family member. By providing the landlord with this information, it’s more likely that they’ll be sympathetic to your need to break the lease.
The earlier you send this document, the better. Give your landlord plenty of time to seek a replacement tenant so that no one is rushed, and no one loses money. Send the letter to your landlord through certified mail or hand-deliver to ensure that it’s received promptly.
If you review the lease you signed, there may be information about how to terminate your lease early. For instance, you may be required to provide a certain amount of days’ advance notice to your landlord before breaking the rental term. Follow those instructions to make your request easier to accept.
Step 2: Negotiate the terms of ending the lease early
Hopefully, your landlord will be understanding and allow you to break the lease early. However, it’s important to prepare for the potential financial repercussions of breaking your lease early. There will be some items to negotiate, including:
- Lease Termination Date: When the lease agreement will ultimately terminate
- Security Deposit: Whether or not the landlord will give you your security deposit, or keep it for themselves.
- Buyout: Whether or not you can pay a lump sum of money to cancel the lease early. While this would usually be the security deposit, it’s possible your landlord may ask for money on top of it.
Step 3: Ask to sublet the property
If your landlord is dead set against you terminating the lease early, ask if you’d be allowed to sublet the property. By subletting the property, you’d be able to move out and continue to collect rent from a subtenant, which you can then pay to your landlord.
Subletting relieves the landlord of having to find a replacement tenant themselves, making the request more agreeable. If the current lease agreement forbids subletting, you can simply ask the landlord to use a lease amendment to modify the agreement.
You, as the current tenant, would then use a sublease agreement to rent out the property to a subtenant.
Step 4: Get help from a lawyer
There are some loopholes in state laws that allow tenants to break lease agreements early, such as if they’re suffering from domestic abuse. However, the likelihood that this strategy will work is low.
Step 5: Keep all documentation
Make a copy of your early lease termination letter, and make note of when your landlord received it. Keep it on file as proof that you provided adequate notice you need to vacate the property early.
Why You Should Send an Early Lease Termination Letter
You probably didn’t sign your lease with the intention of terminating it early but if you do, it’s important to give proper notice that you’re vacating the property. When you provide a concise, formal, and thorough early lease termination letter to your landlord, it initiates the lease termination process professionally and effectively.