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Everything Landlords & Tenants Need to Know when a Tenant Requests an Early Lease Termination | Northern Virginia Property Management - Article Banner

A positive landlord/tenant relationship is important for a lot of reasons. It helps you avoid unpleasant disputes and conflicts; it ensures that your rent will come in on time and your property will be taken care of, and it allows you and your tenants to have difficult conversations when necessary. 

That good relationship will also help when something unfortunate happens. For example, what if your tenant needs to break the lease and vacate ahead of the end of the lease term? It’s an uncomfortable situation, but when you’re proactive and willing to communicate openly, it does not have to be terrible for either party. 

Good tenants are valuable assets. They deliver regular income and minimal vacancy periods. You want to retain good tenants. However, anything can happen – even to good tenants, and you might find that a tenant is relocating for a job, getting married, dealing with a family emergency, or simply unable to pay the rent any longer

You’ll need to know how to handle a tenant needing to leave your property early, and we’re sharing the best process for Northern Virginia landlords who need some help dealing with unexpected vacancy.

Start by Reviewing Your Lease Agreement

When you have that good relationship in place, your tenant will let you know what their situation is as soon as possible. 

The first thing to do when your tenant approaches you with the request to end their lease early is to review the lease agreement that both of you signed. Check the language in the lease that addresses early termination. You should have a process already in place, and the lease should include any penalties or fees that the tenant would be liable for. Typically, a lease will require tenants to pay the equivalent of one or two months of rent unless a new tenant can be found so that no rent is loss. 

If your lease does not reference a process for early lease termination, you can still work with the tenant and come up with an amicable solution. Being familiar with what the lease says will help you determine your options and avoid any legal complications.

Make Tenant Communication a Priority

Communication is always critical when we’re talking about working with tenants, but when it comes to early lease terminations, you have to communicate often and proactively. Encourage your tenants to keep you updated on their plans and their move-out date, and make sure you’re sharing with your tenants everything that they’re responsible for on their way out. 

Listen to your tenant’s reasons for ending the lease early and be empathetic. Sometimes, exceptional communication can give you an opportunity to work out a flexible plan with them. For instance, they might be willing to help you find new tenants. If you can count on them to leave the property in excellent condition and to show the home while they’re preparing to move out, the turnover period will be shorter and less expensive for both of you.  

Start Looking for New Tenants

The earlier your tenant informs you of their intent to vacate, the better, as this gives you more time to find new tenants. As soon as you know you’ll have a vacant unit sooner than you expected, start advertising the property online. Set up For Rent signs, leverage social media to reach a broader audience, and create online listings in all the usual spots. 

Your lease might prohibit subletting, but this is a case where it could help you. Ask your current tenant to help look for someone to sublet the property for the remaining period of the lease. This will provide a continuity of rental income for you, prevent fees for your existing tenant, and give your incoming tenant an opportunity to sign a new long-term lease after the sublet ends. 

Mitigate Any Potential Damages

When a tenant ends their lease early, you might incur some expenses. 

These could include: 

  • Cleaning
  • Repairs
  • Turnover costs such as repainting or carpet cleaning

If the lease agreement includes penalties for early lease termination, collect the money from the tenant before they leave or use the security deposit to reduce the out-of-pocket expenses for damages and cleaning that you face.  

Keeping costs low during this process is to the benefit of you and your tenant. Work together to ensure the property is in good condition and as clean as it was when the tenant moved in. Make sure they understand that they have to remove all of their belongings, and talk about the possibility of showing the property and finding a new tenant even before they move out. Time is of the essence during an early lease termination. 

Evaluate Your Process for Future Lease Agreements

Structure Future Lease AgreementWhen a tenant needs to terminate their lease early, this can be a good opportunity for you to structure future lease agreements. You might notice that there are no penalties mentioned in the lease. Or, there’s no process at all. It’s a good time to review the lease you’re using and what it says about early termination, penalties, and damages, and decide if it’s worth amending them. 

Think about your tenant relationships, too. Was it easy to communicate? Did the tenant find it easy to talk to you? The last thing you want is a tenant leaving abruptly without any notice at all. Make sure you’ve established a relationship and an environment where it’s easy to talk with you. 

You sign a lease agreement because you want to know for sure you’ll have rent coming in for a specific amount of time. When a tenant needs to break the lease and terminate your agreement early, it’s disruptive to the way you work and the money you earn. 

Early lease terminations can be challenging, but handling them with a professional, calm, and empathetic approach can help ease the process. Work with your tenant, review your lease agreement, and start looking for new tenants as soon as you can. 

We can help with tenants, lease agreements, and anything pertaining to Northern Virginia property management. Contact us today. Comfort Property Management leases, manages, and maintains investment properties throughout Northern Virginia, in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, McLean, Ashburn, Sterling, Springfield, Reston, Chantilly, Manassas, Centreville, and Herndon.