In Pennsylvania, tenants that break their lease early may be held for all remaining rent due and any property damage. In addition, landlords in Pennsylvania are not required to make reasonable efforts to re-rent and may still be able to charge the old tenant when a new tenant cannot be found.
Breaking a Lease Early Without Penalty in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a tenant may break a lease without penalty under the following circumstances:
- Domestic or sexual violence
- Early termination clause
- Permanent change in military station resulting in relocation
- Violations of the implied warranty of habitability
- Refusal to reasonably accommodate a tenant with physical or mental disability
- Harassment or violations of the tenant’s privacy
- Unenforceable, illegal, or void lease
- Retaliation against the tenant for requesting a repair or reporting to a government entity
- Death of the sole tenant
In Pennsylvania, a landlord can charge an early termination fee if the tenant breaks a lease early, but it must be written into the contract along with the terms. For example, a landlord may require 30-days’ notice and 2 months’ rent in order to break the lease early.
How Much Remaining Rent Could Tenants Owe in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania does not have a law limiting the amount a tenant owes a landlord when breaking a lease early. A tenant could be liable for the remaining rent through the life of the lease. Furthermore, a landlord does not have to mitigate damages, which could increase the amount a tenant owes.
Landlord’s Duty to Mitigate Damages in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a landlord does not have to make a reasonable effort to re-rent their unit when a renter has broken a lease early. Landlords don’t need to try to rent their property quickly or keep their losses to a minimum when a tenant breaks the lease early.
Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Pennsylvania
A tenant can legally sublet in Pennsylvania, but only with the explicit permission of the landlord. Unless the lease states otherwise, a tenant’s right to sublease is contingent upon receiving the landlord’s written consent.
Even though a tenant might have permission to sublet, the landlord retains the right to reject a prospective tenant. Reasons for rejection might include the subtenant being financially unable to make the lease payments.
If a tenant subleases their unit without the landlord’s explicit written permission, the tenant is in breach of the lease. In Pennsylvania, a lease violation permits a landlord to evict the tenant and subtenant (starting with a 15 or 30 Day Notice to Vacate) and to sue the original tenant for any resulting damages.
In addition, the subtenant also may have grounds to take legal action if the original tenant sublet the unit without the landlord’s permission.
Consequences for Moving Out Early in Pennsylvania
If a tenant breaks their lease and moves out early, the potential consequences include:
- The landlord keeping the security deposit
- The landlord suing the tenant for damages
- A lower credit score
- A potential bad reference in the future
Can the Landlord Keep the Security Deposit?
When a tenant breaks a lease early, it is possible for the landlord to keep all or part of the security deposit. The amount a landlord can keep depends on how much the tenant still owes in damages and the remaining rent.
When a lease is broken early, the landlord may subtract from the deposit, the amount of rent the landlord loses until a new tenant starts paying. If the owed rent becomes bigger than the security deposit then the landlord can hold the tenant liable for the difference—regardless of whether the landlord has made a reasonable effort to re-rent the unit.
Similarly, a landlord may be able to deduct costs associated with property damage that were caused by the tenant. The damages should be caused by the tenant’s negligence and carelessness—not from normal wear and tear.
Can the Tenant Be Sued for Damages?
If a tenant breaks a lease early in Pennsylvania, the landlord can sue a tenant for a breach of contract for the remaining rent due or for any property damage. Damages for less than $12,000 are considered “small claims” in Pennsylvania and should be filed in the Pennsylvania Magisterial District Court.
If a landlord files in the District Court, they cannot bring a claim for more than $12,000. If suing for damages greater than $12,000, a landlord can file a claim in the Circuit Court for the county in which they live.