Terminating a Lease: Not a one size fits all procedure.

Not all leases are created equal. Under the eyes of the law, there are very few reasons that a landlord must let a tenant out of a lease early. However, that does not mean that there are not ways to terminate a lease early, only that a landlord is generally not obligated to terminate early except in very limited situations. If you are not careful in attempting to terminate a lease early, then you may end up having to pay rent until the end of the lease term, or longer if the lease contains an automatic renewal provision.

The absolute best way to terminate a lease is through a termination provision if the lease includes one. Not all landlords have termination provisions in the leases that they offer to prospective tenants, but you can always request that one be added before you sign. If the landlord refuses to include one, then be aware that you will likely not be able to terminate the lease early. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to terminate a lease early, it is likely far too late to request a termination provision be added to the lease, so other options will need to be considered.

Another option is to ask the landlord to let you terminate the lease early. Under Virginia law, if a landlord and tenant have a written agreement to terminate the lease early, that will suffice. Such an agreement must be written. A verbal statement from a landlord regarding early termination will most likely result in you having to pay for the entire length of the lease because the law requires such agreements to be written. An unwritten agreement regarding early termination has no legal effect. Keep in mind that a landlord may require some negotiation to reach an agreement as to early termination of a lease. For instance, a landlord may agree if you offer to pay two months’ worth of rent after the date that you move out. That alternative is likely still favorable to paying for the full amount of the remaining lease term.

If there is no termination provision in the lease, and your landlord does not agree to let you out of the lease, you still may be able to terminate the lease if your landlord somehow breached the lease. Although uncommon, examples of a breach may include the conditions of the rental or the actions and inactions that your landlord took.

If you need to terminate your lease early, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@wmmlegal.com or 804-423-1382 to set up an initial consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss your circumstances. We would like to help.