Can a Tenant Break a Lease Due to Buying a House?

Last Updated: October 6, 2023 by Phil Ahn

There are no state laws that allow a tenant to break a lease for buying a house. However, there are different options that could offset the costs of breaking a lease early without justification.

Other Options for Breaking a Lease Early Due to Buying a House

Although there are no laws that allow a tenant to break a lease early for buying a house, tenants may have other options when trying to break the lease.

Negotiating with the Landlord

A tenant may be able to explain their need to move to the landlord. The landlord may be willing to terminate the lease for the tenant, so long as the tenant helps to mitigate damages. In mitigating damages, a tenant could, for example, pay for 2 months’ rent, sacrifice the security deposit, or help find a new tenant.

Paying an Early Termination Fee

Sometimes in leases, early termination clauses exist, which allow the tenant to terminate the lease if they pay a fee. After paying the fee, the tenant would no longer be on the hook for the remaining rent for the duration of the lease. Even if there is not an early termination clause, the landlord may agree to accept a fee in return for terminating the lease early.

Subletting or Assigning the Lease

Rather than terminating the lease, the tenant could sublet or assign the lease to another prospective tenant. Subletting would not take the original tenant’s name off of the lease, but would shift the responsibility for paying rent to the prospective tenant. Assigning the lease would ensure that the original tenant’s name would be taken off the lease and assigned to another person.

Based on on the state the tenant lives in, they may or may not be required to notify the landlord of the sublease or assignment. 

Landlord Duty to Mitigate Damages

When a tenant breaks a lease early for buying a house, they are still liable for the remaining rent due. However, in most states, the landlord is required to make an honest effort to re-rent the premises to another tenant. This is known as the landlord’s duty to mitigate damages.

Common steps that landlords take to fulfill mitigating damages include:

  • Advertising the vacant rental unit
  • Showing the property to potential renters
  • Setting a fair rental price to attract renters
  • Responding timely to interested renters

If the tenant successfully mitigates damages by finding a new tenant, the original tenant will not have to continue paying rent. The tenant may still be responsible for rent payments until the new lease agreement begins or until the original lease term expires, whichever occurs first. The tenant may also be responsible for any costs incurred by the landlord in re-renting the property, such as advertising expenses or leasing commissions.

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