Breaking a Lease in Idaho

Breaking a Lease in Idaho

Last Updated: July 24, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

Find out when a tenant can legally break a lease in Idaho, when they can’t, and if a landlord is required by Idaho 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 know the notice requirements in Idaho to end a tenancy.

Lease Termination Notice Requirements in Idaho

In Idaho, a tenant is not required to provide notice for fixed end date leases, the lease expires on the last day of the lease (Idaho Code § 55-208). Tenants are required to provide notice for the following lease terms:

  • Notice to terminate a week-to-week lease. No statute, but the lease should specify the process the tenant must follow to give proper notice.
  • Notice to terminate a month-to-month lease. A tenancy at will may be terminated by either tenant or landlord with one month’s written notice. (§§ 55-208)
  • Notice to terminate a yearly lease with no end date. One month’s written notice required.

Delivering Notice in Idaho

Notice shall be served using one of the following methods:

  1. Giving a copy to the landlord in person;
  2. Leaving a copy with anyone over the age of 18 and sending a copy via mail; or
  3. Posting a copy on the premises in a conspicuous place and sending a copy via mail.

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

Questions? To chat with an Idaho 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 Idaho, 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 Idaho 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 Idaho landlord-tenant law.

Landlords must maintain the premises to protect a tenant’s safety and health. Landlords must comply with city and county ordinances and state laws regarding housing conditions.

Idaho landlord duties to provide habitable premises include the following examples (Idaho Statutes § 6-320):

  • Structural deterioration, including cracked and crumbling walls and ceilings and broken or missing doors and windows
  • Defective plumbing, including a broken toilet, lack of hot/cold water, absent sinks or bathing facilities and serious leaks
  • Exposed wiring
  • Nonfunctioning heating units
  • No means to remove or store garbage
  • Insect infestations
  • Leaking roof or walls, from insufficient waterproofing or weather protection
  • Dismantling or not installing smoke detectors

For more information on Idaho habitability laws, 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. Idaho has no statute on landlord notice unless the lease specifies when and how the landlord may enter the property. If a landlord repeatedly violates the 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. In Idaho, a landlord cannot lock out a tenant.

5. 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:

  • Violation of the 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).
  • 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.
  • Senior Citizen or Health Issue. Some states offer age or health-related lease-breaking arrangements that permit early lease termination.  If a tenant has a qualified disability the tenant may request early termination as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Domestic Violence. Many states protect tenants who are victims of domestic violence such as early termination rights. If you are confronting a domestic violence situation and want to move, check with local law enforcement regarding laws that may apply in domestic violence situations.
Questions? To chat with an Idaho landlord tenant attorney, click here

Examples of Insufficient Justification for Lease Breaking in Idaho

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. 

note

Idaho state law does not require landlords to take reasonable steps to re-rent their unit when a tenant breaks their lease.

Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Idaho

If the 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 a landlord’s approval prior to subletting. To get the landlord’s approval, a tenant shall 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 that a tenant has 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 a landlord rejects the request, know that they can only refuse the proposed subtenant based on legitimate factors. The law states that a landlord cannot unreasonably refuse to sublet.

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

Additional Resources for Idaho Tenants & Landlords: