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When are you allowed to break a lease?

On Behalf of | Mar 22, 2023 | Real Estate Disputes, Real Estate Litigation |

When looking for an apartment or home to rent, most individuals find a place they like, sign a lease, and stay there for the entire term. Unfortunately, things can change, which may be reason enough for you to end the contract. While a lease is legally binding for both you and your landlord, there are specific circumstances in California when you can justifiably terminate it.

  1. Domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault

Tenants experiencing a violent or criminal situation are empowered by California law to flee from dangerous or unsafe settings. If you, a family member, or someone in your home is a victim, you could be permitted to leave without having to pay rent. However, you must notify your landlord at least 14 days before terminating the lease and submit the necessary documentation.

  1. Active military duty

If you are summoned to active military duty after signing a lease, you can terminate your contract under federal law. Service members include those actively part of the Armed Forces, National Guard, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To break your lease, you must provide a written notice to your landlord by mail or deliver it in person. After that, the lease will expire thirty days after the next rent payment is due.

  1. Uninhabitable unit

It is the landlord’s duty to uphold California’s rental laws and health codes to keep the unit habitable for tenants. Landlords will need to make repairs and perform routine maintenance if there are any major issues with the unit.

If the property is found to be dangerous or to have significant deficiencies, such as severe mold or poor ventilation, you may be allowed to terminate your agreement.

  1. Harassment or privacy violations

There are very few instances wherein landlords can enter your space without prior notice, such as emergencies where you or the property may be in immediate danger. Otherwise, your landlord should provide written notice 24 hours before going in. Moreover, breaking the contract may be justified if the landlord is harassing you by changing your locks or denying you access to utilities.

Most individuals prefer to have a cordial relationship with their landlords. If you wish to terminate a contract early, review California’s rental rules and speak with your landlord first. The best-case scenario is that your landlord understands your situation and agrees to let you break the lease. Otherwise, speaking with a legal professional can help you understand your available options.