Breaking a Lease in Connecticut

Breaking a Lease in Connecticut

Last Updated: July 18, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

Find out when a tenant can legally break a lease in Connecticut, when they can’t, and if a landlord is required by Connecticut law to make reasonable effort to re-rent.

Before we address the legally acceptable reasons to get out a lease early without penalty, it’s important to understand the notice requirements in Connecticut to end a tenancy in general.

Lease Termination Notice Requirements in Connecticut

In Connecticut, the tenant is required to provide a 3-day written notice for all lease lengths including fixed end date, month-to-month, and week-to-week leases (Connecticut General Statutes § 47a-23).

Delivering Notice in Connecticut

The tenant can deliver the notice to the landlord in person or by mailing it via certified mail to the address where the rent is paid.

There are a handful of scenarios where a tenant can legally break a lease in Connecticut without penalty. We’ll go through each of them below.

Questions? To chat with a Connecticut landlord tenant attorney, click here

1. Early Termination Clause

Some modern lease agreements may provide specific terms that would allow a tenant to terminate a lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. Read over the lease and look for language that outlines agreed-upon terms for ending the lease before the end of the fixed period, such as the amount of the fee (i.e., equal to 2 month’s rent) and the amount of notice required (i.e., 30 days).

If a lease agreement contains an early termination clause, before executing it and paying the penalty fee, read further to learn about other conditions that, if met, would not require a penalty fee to be paid.

2. Active Military Duty

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps protect active service members who are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station. The protection begins on the date of entering duty and ends between 30-90 days after the date of discharge.

To break a lease in accordance with the relief act, a tenant must:

  • Prove the lease was signed before entering active duty.
  • Prove they will remain on active duty for at least the next 90 days.
  • Deliver a written notice to the landlord (example, page 2), accompanied by a copy of the orders to deploy / Permanent Change of Station (PCS) or a letter from their commanding officer stating their pending deployment.

With that said, the lease does not terminate immediately. Once the notice is delivered, the earliest the lease can terminate is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period. For example, if the notice was delivered on the 23rd of March, and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest the lease can terminate is May 1st therefore, rent is still due for the month of April.

note

In Connecticut, the term “servicemember” means a member of the armed forces, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard.

3. Unit is Uninhabitable

Most states have specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units, and Connecticut is no different.

If those standards are not met, proper notice is given by the tenant and the repairs are still not made within the allowable time period, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted”. As a result, the obligations of the tenant under the lease are no longer required, given that the landlord has not met their own responsibilities under the Connecticut landlord-tenant law.

According to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 47a-7(a), landlord duties to provide habitable premises include the following:

  • Compliance. Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes affecting health and safety.
  • Repairs. Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition, unless the unfit condition was intentionally caused by the tenant.
  • Common Areas. Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.
  • Maintenance. Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied.
  • Trash. Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for the removal of trash and other waste related to occupancy, and arrange for the removal.
  • Water and Heat. Always provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat.

For additional information on habitability laws in Connecticut, click here.

4. Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation

If the action is serious enough, harassment by a landlord or their violation of a tenant’s privacy may be enough justification for relieving a tenant of their obligations of the lease.

  • Landlord Entry. Connecticut state law states that your landlord should provide reasonable written or oral notice required, and entry allowed only at reasonable times. Unless there is an emergency or the tenant has informed the landlord that they will leave the premises for an extended period, there is a court order or if the tenant has abandoned the property. (Connecticut General Statutes §§ 47a-16). In all other situations, if a landlord repeatedly violates a tenant’s rights to privacy or removes windows or doors, turns off utilities, or changes the locks, the tenant would be considered “constructively evicted,” as described above.
  • Changing the Locks. A landlord cannot lockout their tenant. In Connecticut, the only legal way a landlord can remove a tenant is through a court eviction process, called “Summary Process.”

5. Violation of Lease Agreement

If a landlord violates the terms of the lease agreement, it may be enough justification to break the lease and relieve the tenant from their own obligations (i.e., illegally raising the rent during the fixed period). Because each lease agreement is different, carefully read over the duties and requirements for both parties to understand if a violation has been made, and if there is language describing how certain violations are to be handled.

In Connecticut, if a landlord violates a lease agreement or fails to supply essential willfully, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement and recover an amount not more than two months’ periodic rent or double the actual damages sustained by him, whichever is greater. If the rental agreement is terminated, the landlord shall return all security and prepaid rent and interest required.

6. Domestic Violence

Connecticut provides tenants who are victims of domestic violence with special rental provisions for their protection. If a tenant is in a domestic violence situation and they want to move, it is best to contact local law enforcement. Some statutes the state of Connecticut provides for victims of domestic violence include:

  • Early Termination Rights. If a tenant reasonably believes it is necessary to vacate the premises due to fear of imminent harm to the tenant or a dependent of the tenant because of family violence or sexual assault, the tenant may terminate the lease without penalty with written notice of at least 30 days.
  • Proof of Status. The notice required for early termination must include a statement affirming that the tenant or a dependent of the tenant is a victim of family violence or sexual assault, as well as either a copy of a police report or court record detailing an act of family violence or sexual assault (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 47a-11e).

7. Senior Citizen or Health Issue

If a tenant, a dependent living with you, or a co-tenant, face a serious physical or mental health issue, they may qualify for early lease termination without obligation to pay the entire balance of rent due. Some states offer permitted, health-related lease-breaking arrangements that are age-restricted. Most states require a note from a locally licensed physician and at least 30 days’ notice. Since not all states allow this statute, be sure to check the Connecticut Landlord and Tenant Handbook for further information. Connecticut has the following health-related early termination rights:

  • Seniors and tenants with disabilities to terminate written leases before the expiration date if the senior or disabled tenant is accepted into a federal or state-subsidized housing unit provided the senior or disabled person gives thirty days written notice to the landlord.  (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 8-116d)

8. Other Reasons 

A tenant may have alternative reasons to terminate a lease early.  For example, the following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate the lease early, but are not always automatic and must be determined by a court:

  • Illegal or Unenforceable Contract. In some scenarios, a lease agreement may be deemed illegal and as a result, is generally not enforceable. (i.e. contracting with a minor)
  • Mandatory Disclosures. Many state and local laws require landlords to disclose documentation, policies, or specific unit information to tenants prior to moving in. Disclosure laws typically impose heavy fines or legal ramifications to landlords if they are not followed. In rare cases, they contain penalty provisions that may allow you to break your lease.
Questions? To chat with a Connecticut landlord tenant attorney, click here

Examples of Insufficient Justification for Lease Breaking in Connecticut

The below reasons are generally not enough justification (on their own) to release a tenant from the obligation of their lease term, and as a result, provide no legal protection against penalties for not honoring the lease.

  • They bought a house.
  • They are relocating for a new job or school.
  • They are upgrading or downgrading.
  • They are moving in with a partner.
  • They are moving to be closer to family.

Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons without court approval or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants.  If a tenant would like to break a lease for any of these reasons, the tenant should ask the landlord to agree to a mutual termination. 

Landlord’s Responsibility to Re-rent in Connecticut

Connecticut state law does require landlords to take reasonable steps to re-rent their unit when a tenant breaks their lease. This is referred to as the landlord’s duty to “mitigate damages”. This means that if you leave your lease early and your landlord re-rents the unit before your lease ends, then the rent received from the new tenant will apply to your debt.

According to Connecticut law, your landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent your unit rather than charge you for the total remaining rent due under the lease. You need to pay only the amount of rent the landlord loses because you moved out early.(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 47a-11a)

Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Connecticut

If a lease does not prohibit subletting, then a tenant might be in the clear to do so. However, the lease might contain a clause requiring a tenant to obtain the landlord’s approval prior to subletting. To get landlord approval, send them a letter through certified mail with a return receipt requested, outlining the terms of the sublet lease agreement. Certified mail is the only proof of delivery that most courts will accept in case a tenant needs proof that they notified the landlord.

The letter should include the following information:

  • Sublet term.
  • Name of proposed subtenant or assignee.
  • The permanent home address of proposed subtenant or assignee.
  • Your reason for subletting or leaving permanently.
  • Your new address during the sublease if applicable.
  • The written consent of any co‑tenant.
  • A copy of the proposed sublease.

If your landlord rejects your request, know that they can only refuse the proposed subtenant based on legitimate factors. The law says your landlord cannot unreasonably refuse your sublet.

For more information and to get a FREE Connecticut sublease agreement click here.

Additional Resources for Connecticut Tenants & Landlords: