Breaking your Lease Agreement

What you should know before breaking your lease agreement

As far as how legally enforceable your lease agreement is, it is 100 percent a legal document and should be treated as such. Breaking your lease agreement comes with many legal obligations.

Unfortunately, with fluctuating rental amounts in many cities, circumstantial changes, career relocations and so forth, breaking lease agreements may seem like ‘no big deal’ until your landlord decides to pursue legal action. Conversely, your landlord needs a pretty good reason to be able to break the lease agreement as well. Some situations call for the tenancy agreements to end on either the tenant or the landlords part, but both will still require proper protocols to ensure fairness to each party.

There is no fast solution to ending tenancy on both ends, however, here are a few things to consider for both tenants and landlords in accordance with the British Columbia Landlord and Tenancy Act. If you must end your tenancy early, there are a few options to consider before packing up and leaving.

Consider your reasons for breaking your lease agreement

If your job calls for a move out of the city or province or there are other pressing issues that are reasonably out of your control, work with your landlord as much as possible to reduce the strain of a broken lease agreement.

If there is tension between you and your landlord that cannot be rectified and for legal reason such as your landlord breached a ‘ material term’, you can consider ending your tenancy early and should proceed with the proper protocols before ending the tenancy agreement.

Communicate with your landlord if breaking your lease agreement is necessary

If you are a tenant and considering breaking your rental agreement, providing your landlord with as much notice as possible is required. While there is no guarantee that your landlord will be understanding, explain your reasons and be honest. Attempt to understand the situation from your landlord’s perspective- they potentially rely on the rental income to pay the mortgage and you have told them that you will be ceasing this source of income earlier than they anticipated or could prepare for.

Offer to help your landlord in finding a new tenant; if you have had a good relationship with your landlord and they believe that the property will rent out with ease, you may be okay- however if your landlord encounters challenges in finding a tenant to take over immediately and sees loses in any rent during the remainder of your lease term, you may be responsible to pay the difference.

Having a diplomatic conversation with your landlord can go a long way. Your landlord may simply agree to ending your tenancy early, and if so you should try to be as accommodating as possible. You may discuss with your landlord the best way for you to be of assistance. Your landlord may need you to be flexible in making your unit available for viewings, showing the unit on their behalf or even assisting with finding a new tenant. If this is the case, The Residential Tenancy Branch offers a standard “Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy” form.

Alternatives to breaking your lease

Depending on your situation, a sublet or assignment may be an alternative to breaking the lease agreement. A sublet happens when a tenant moves out temporarily and rents their unit out to a subtenant until they return- also known as subletting. Before you consider subletting, be sure to check your lease agreement and talk with your landlord to obtain written consent. If you are subletting your rental unit, you retain all the rights and responsibilities associated with that tenancy agreement.

An assignment occurs when a tenant permanently moves out and transfers their agreement to a new tenant. In order to sublet or assign your tenancy agreement, you must have your landlord’s written consent. For more detailed information visit your landlord and tenancy act in your province or city, in British Columbia visit the Policy Guideline 19 for more information.

Cost of breaking your lease

If you move out before the lease is up without legal cause, you are breaking the lease. You can expect your landlord or property management company to pursue you for lost rent, advertising costs, damages and more. The costs associated with breaking a lease could potentially cost you thousands of dollars and should be carefully considered before resorting to it.

The Residential Tenancy Guide states that: “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.”

The Takeaway

While breaking your lease is unfortunate, there are times when it may be the only option. Work with your landlord as much as possible to reduce the impact a broken lease will have and always follow all the legal protocols in accordance with your province or territory.


breaking your lease agreement


Disclaimer: This article and Rent it Furnished do not endorse breaking Residential Tenancy Agreements and does not substitute for independent legal advice. Consult your Residential Tenancy Branch or independent legal counsel for further information.