The lease agreement between a landlord and tenant govern the procedures for terminating a lease. Some leases contain an automatic termination provision while others may provide for automatic lease renewal if there is no legal termination. Typically, to terminate a lease legally, either landlord or tenant must provide written notice to the other party of the intent to end the tenancy. State rules establish the termination procedures.
Written lease agreements typically contain the mechanics of termination. Most residential property leases contain provisions outlining the procedures for a legally valid termination. Depending on the lease and state laws, parties can dictate the exact methods of termination, whether notice should be hand-delivered or mailed, and legal addresses for both parties. Parties can also insert any deadlines for termination or automatic renewal. States that do not recognise oral lease agreements generally provide default rules and do not provide contractual legal recourse when tenants or landlords fail to provide notice prior to termination.
Federal laws protect tenants from discrimination based on colour, religion, origin, disability, age or family status. These laws protect tenants from retaliatory action by landlords who act against a tenant who reports a legal violation. Landlords may not evict tenants for seeking protection or reporting violations pursuant to federal housing laws.
Statutory and Contractual Allowances
Based on a state's landlord-tenant statutes, tenants may have a right to reduce rent, withhold it or terminate the lease as recourse against a landlord who does not comply with its legal obligations to provide safe and clean living conditions. Additionally, landlords who fail to provide tenants with heat or air conditioning may allow tenants to unilaterally terminate the lease. Landlords may evict tenants by following the leasing provisions and state laws for a tenant's failure to pay rent. Landlords can evict tenants who breach the lease's terms, such as keeping a pet within the premises when the landlord's lease contains a no pet policy. However, federal laws protect disabled tenants who rely upon seeing guide dogs and landlords must make an exception to its no pet policy for these sight animals.
Automatic Lease Renewals
Each state's property and contract laws can allow landlords to automatically extend the lease term when a tenant fails to provide adequate written notice of his intent to vacate. Tenants who do not cancel their lease at the end of the tenancy can be liable for an additional 12 months of rent.
Landlord's Recourse/Tenant's Recourse
Landlords may seek legal injunctive relief against a tenant who refuses to vacate the landlord's premises after the landlord's lawful eviction. Similarly, tenants can find legal relief through its local consumer protection agency or through small claims courts.
Since real estate laws frequently change, you should not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.