Tips To Get Out Of A Lease Early

Are you locked in a lease and need to leave your rental unit before the lease is up? Read about what a lease is and learn some tips to help you get out early.

A lease is a contract between you and the landlord that you will rent a property for a certain amount of time. Commonly, leases are for 6 months or 1 year. If you move out before the lease is up, you are breaking the lease and your landlord may pursue you for lost rent, advertising costs, damages, etc.

The term ‘lease’ is not used in the Residential Tenancy Act.  A lease is the same as a “fixed-term tenancy” which is what The Act calls it. This is what the Residential Tenancy Guide states:

“A tenant who ends a fixed-term tenancy early without the landlord’s agreement can be held accountable for any loss incurred by the landlord, such as rent or advertising costs to re-rent the unit. The landlord is obliged to limit any potential loss by actively trying to rent the unit.”

For example, if you want to get out of a lease that has three months left on it, your landlord cannot just let the property sit empty for those remaining three months and then come after you for back rent. They must take reasonable steps to re-rent the property. You might be on the hook for advertising costs though, and any bridging rent between your move-out and the new tenant’s move-in.

Many times, if you were a good tenant and the landlord believes that the property will easily rent out again for the same amount of money, breaking a lease won’t be too big a deal. As well, there are times such as in a hot market that a landlord may be happy to hear you’re moving so they can increase the rent. However, the opposite can be said for a low market such as in the case of a pandemic when not as many people are looking to rent. For example, if your landlord is forced to re-rent your place at a $50 discount, you may have to pay him or her $50 per month for the remaining term of your agreement. 

So how can you get out of your lease?

Early notice. For starters, give your landlord as much notice as possible. Explain your reasons and be honest. Try to understand the situation from your landlord’s point of view.  He or she relies on the rental income to pay the mortgage, and they are being told that you plan to stop paying him/her that income. Most reasonable landlords will understand your dilemma and work with you towards a solution. 

Find a new renter. Offer your help to the landlord in finding a new tenant to fulfill your obligations. This may include talking to coworkers and friends or even advertising the property, with your landlord’s consent, and coming up with a handful of good prospective renters for your landlord to contact. That way, your landlord can do the proper screening to choose the best candidate to live in his or her property. 

However, if your landlord has trouble finding a tenant to take over immediately, or if your landlord loses any rent during the remainder of your lease term, you may be responsible for paying the difference.

Consider termination offers. If you are unable to take the time to find a new renter or you are in a situation where you need to leave the rental unit immediately, you may need to consider working out a deal with your landlord. Perhaps you will allow them to keep part of your damage deposit, or will give them some extra cash. If your landlord agrees to this, it’s in your best interest for you both to sign a form from the Residential Tenancy Branch called a Mutual Agreement To End Tenancy (form #RTB-8) so neither party can back out of the arrangement. Oral agreements are very hard to prove, should anything go sideways.

The important part to remember is that you must be genuinely truthful to your landlord about your circumstances and why you need to move out. Providing your landlord with a respectful letter can be a good start. Here is an example that you can copy and edit:

Dear (Landlord),

It upsets me to have to tell you this because you’ve been such a great landlord, but unfortunately I need to end my tenancy early. I recently received a promotion at work, which requires me to transfer to my company’s office in Winnipeg.

I currently have five months left in my one year lease and will need to move out on (month, day, year). My place is always kept tidy, and I am flexible with my schedule for rental showings. I will have the property professionally cleaned once I move out. 

I would like to offer you my help in finding a replacement tenant for your property. I am happy to talk to my friends and coworkers who may be looking to move. 

If you have any questions or require any further action on my part, please feel free to email, text or phone me. Thank you so much for your understanding.