Find out when a tenant can legally break a lease in Connecticut, when they can’t, and whether or not a landlord is required by Connecticut law to make reasonable effort to rerent.
Before we address the legally acceptable reasons to get out a lease early without penalty, it’s important to know 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 (§§ 47a-23).
Conditions for Legally Breaking a Lease in Connecticut
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.
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 / 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. So 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 (meaning, rent is still due for the month of April).
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
Every state has 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/fixes 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 Connecticut state law §§ 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. Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat
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 (§§ 47a-16(c)). If your landlord repeatedly violates your rights to privacy or does removes windows or doors, turns off your utilities, or changes the locks, you would be considered “constructively evicted,” as described above.
- Changing the locks. In Connecticut, the only legal way a landlord can remove a tenant is through a court eviction process, called “Summary Process.” A landlord cannot lockout their tenant.
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 whether or not 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 services, the tenant may utilize the following remedies (Sec. 47a-13):
- If the landlord is required to supply heat, running water, hot water, electricity, gas or other essential services, and if the landlord fails to supply such essential service and the failure is not caused by conditions beyond the landlord’s control, the tenant may give notice to the landlord specifying the breach and may elect to:
- procure reasonable amounts of heat, hot water, running water, electric, gas or other essential services during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance and deduct the actual and reasonable cost of such service from the rent
- procure reasonable substitute housing during the period of the landlord’s noncompliance if the landlord fails to supply such service within forty-eight hours of such breach, except if the breach is the failure to provide the same service and such breach recurs within six months, the tenant may secure substitute housing immediately
- if the failure to supply such service is willful, 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 pursuant to section 47a-22, recoverable under section 47a-21
6. Domestic Violence
Connecticut provides tenants who are victims of domestic violence with special rental provisions for their protection. If you are confronting a domestic violence situation (this can also be stalking), and want to move, check with local law enforcement regarding special state laws that may apply in domestic violence situations. 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 (§§ 47a-11e).
7. Senior Citizen or Health Issue
If you, a dependent living with you, or your co-tenant, face a serious physical or mental health issue, you 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 (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
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
Since state landlord-tenant laws vary, the following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate their tenancy early in other states but are not applicable in Connecticut:
- Illegal contract. In some scenarios, a lease agreement may be deemed illegal and as a result, is generally not enforceable.
- 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 and may allow you to break your lease.
Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants.
Landlord’s Responsibility to Rerent in Connecticut
Connecticut state law does require landlords to take reasonable steps to rerent 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 rerents the unit before your lease ends, then the rent received from the new tenant will apply to your debt.
According to Connecticut law (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 47a-11a), 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.
Keep in mind, not all landlords are aware of their duty to mitigate. If your landlord demands payment for the remaining balance of your lease, you may want to notify them of your state’s law.
Connecticut tenants who break their lease early without proper justification should still plan on losing at least one month’s rent, even though the landlord has a responsible to rerent. In Connecticut and other states where the law requires the landlord to make a reasonable effort to rerent, judges in civil courts commonly award landlords with at least one month’s rent, no matter how quickly the unit is rented.
Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Connecticut
If your lease does not prohibit subletting, then you are in the clear to do so. However, your lease might contain a clause requiring you to obtain your landlord’s approval prior to subletting. To get landlord approval you will want to 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 you need to prove that you notified your 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.