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 landlords are not legally required to terminate a lease early, a letter may convince them to do so anyway.
What is an Early Lease Termination?
In life, unavoidable events can happen within a rental term that requires you to terminate the lease early, also known as breaking a lease. Sending an early lease termination letter is a polite and intelligent way to begin discussing your situation with your landlord.
While landlords are not technically required to let you break a lease (they can continue to collect money from you despite your troubles), it is often in their interest to agree with you.
After all, both parties likely want to avoid a lengthy, ugly, and costly eviction process.
As a reference, a lease termination goes by several other names:
- Early lease termination letter
- Notice of lease termination
- Notice of terminating the tenancy
- Notice to end the tenancy
- Release of the lease agreement
Why You Should Send an Early Lease Termination Letter
You probably did not sign your lease to terminate it early, but if you want to end the contract before the original term is up, it is essential to give proper notice that you are 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.
What is 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.
There may be other issues to address and resolve, depending on your situation. For instance, if there is a power or cable service in your name, provide your landlord with the date you will terminate these services.
Your landlord may also need to inspect the property before refunding your security deposit (if willing to do it at all). In your early lease termination letter, request a property inspection as soon as possible.
How to Terminate Your Lease Early
If you are moving out early, you should always use a lease termination letter.
Unless you have unique circumstances for moving out early, like active military duty or the landlord’s failure to keep the premises livable, you could be on the hook for rent for the remainder of the lease term unless the landlord finds a new tenant.
The following are some guidelines for terminating a lease early:
Step 1: Send the early lease termination letter to your landlord
You can explain why you need to terminate the lease early with an early lease termination letter. 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.
The earlier you send this document, the better. Give your landlord plenty of time to seek a replacement tenant so that no one has to rush or lose money. Send the letter to your landlord through certified mail or hand-deliver to ensure that it is received promptly.
If you review the lease you signed, there may be information about terminating your lease early. For instance, you may have 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 is essential 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, 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 can sublet the property. By subletting, you can move out and continue to collect rent from a subtenant, which you then pay to your landlord.
Subletting relieves the landlord of finding a replacement tenant, making the request more agreeable.
If the current lease agreement forbids subletting, you can ask the landlord to use a Lease Amendment to modify the agreement.
As the current tenant, you 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 suffer from domestic abuse (for example, review California Civil Code § 1946.7 if you rent property in California).
However, the likelihood that this strategy will work is low and you should always double-check your state’s legislation.
Step 5: Keep all documentation
Make a copy of your early lease termination letter and note when your landlord received it. Keep it on file as proof that you provided adequate notice you need to vacate the property early.
Early Lease Termination Letter Sample
Below you can find an example of what an early lease termination letter typically looks like:
Early Lease Termination Letter
Using our easy document builder, you can create an early lease termination letter in minutes (with step-by-step instructions).
How to Write an Early Lease Termination Letter
Before entering the details of an early lease termination letter, ensure the date you are filling out the notice is on the top of the document.
Step 1 – Complete Landlord Information Section
1. Landlord Name. Provide the full name of the landlord, the party who owns the property that is being leased or rented.
2. Landlord Address. Write the landlord’s current address (*Note – This is not the address of the property the tenant is leasing or renting.
Step 2 – Fill in the Lease Agreement and Property Information
3. Lease Agreement Date. Insert the date the tenant entered into the original lease agreement (in most cases, the date the landlord and tenant(s) signed the lease agreement.
4. Property Address. Provide the street address of the property that is being leased or rented. Include the unit or apartment number if applicable.
5. Vacate Date. Enter the date the tenant plans to leave or move out of the property.
Step 3 – Explain the Reason for Terminating the Lease
6. Reason for Lease Termination. Provide the reason the tenant wants to terminate the lease agreement, such as job relocation or significant family change like divorce or death. (While providing the reason is optional, landlords may be more willing to end a lease early if they know the tenant’s circumstances or hardships)
Step 4 – Enter Security Deposit Details
In most cases, the tenant paid a security deposit at the beginning of the lease. The tenant can forfeit, request return, or request another action regarding the security deposit.
Keep in mind that the landlord may not return the security deposit depending on your situation.
7. Forwarding Name and Address. Write the full name and address where the landlord should forward the security deposit.
Step 5 – Write and Sign Tenant Name(s)
8. Tenants Name(s). Provide the full name of each of the tenants that signed the original lease agreement as well as any subsequent tenants added to the lease through lease amendments or lease addendums.
Early Lease Termination Letter FAQs
Depending on the terms of the lease and the laws in your state, you can move out, sign a new lease, or pay-as-you-go every month. If your landlord ends your lease early without cause, you can sue the landlord for costs associated with your housing searches like realtor fees and temporary housing until you find another permanent place to live.
If you were late on rent or significantly damaged the property, you may not be entitled to damages. In most cases, your landlord must send you written advance notice (usually 1-2 months in advance) before you have to leave the premises.
A typical lease termination fee depends on the lease and the laws in your area, but it’s usually one or two months’ rent. As a tenant, if the lease doesn’t specify a fee and your landlord can’t find a replacement tenant after a good faith attempt, then you’ll likely be responsible for the rent owed for the rest of the lease term.