“Breaking a lease” means that a tenant wants to leave their unit before their tenancy agreement is over. For example, a tenant who signed a one year lease might want to move out after eight months.
A tenant and landlord can agree to break a lease. It is best if this agreement is in writing and signed by the landlord and the tenant. You can use Form N11: Agreement to End the Tenancy.
If the landlord is not willing to break the lease, the tenant can assign the unit to a new tenant with the landlord’s consent.
In most cases, if a tenant has a tenancy agreement or lease in which they agreed to rent the unit for a specific period of time, the tenant cannot break the agreement before it ends, unless:
- the landlord agrees,
- the landlord allows the tenant to assign the rental unit to someone else
- the Landlord and Tenant Board issues an order ending the tenancy agreement early because the landlord has not met their obligations under the Act.
Assigning the tenancy
If a tenant wants to end their tenancy agreement early and the landlord is not willing to agree, the tenant can ask the landlord to let them transfer their tenancy (their right to occupy the rental unit) to another person. This is called an assignment.
A tenant must obtain the landlord’s approval for an assignment. It is best to ask for this approval in writing.
If the landlord agrees …
If a landlord agrees to the idea of allowing the tenant to assign the rental unit to someone else, the tenant may find another person to rent the unit and ask the landlord to accept this person. The landlord has the right to refuse to let this person become a new tenant, but must have a good reason for doing so.
A landlord can charge the tenant for any of their reasonable costs in approving the assignment, such as the cost of doing a credit check on the person who may be renting the unit. The landlord cannot, however, charge the tenant more than the landlord’s actual costs.
If the landlord refuses …
If the landlord will not let the tenant assign the rental unit, or does not reply within seven days of the tenant’s request to assign, the tenant can end their tenancy by giving a Tenant’s Notice to Terminate the Tenancy (Form N9) to the landlord. The tenant must give the landlord this notice no later than 30 days after the request was made.
Tenants who have a daily or weekly tenancy must give the landlord at least 28 days notice. In all other cases, tenants must give the landlord at least 30 days notice.
If a tenant disagrees with their landlord’s refusal to approve the person that the tenant would like to assign their tenancy to, or with the costs they paid to the landlord, the tenant can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to resolve the matter.
A tenant can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an order ending the tenancy agreement early if the landlord has not met their obligations under the Act. For example, if the landlord:
- unreasonably withholds consent to assign or sublet the rental unit
- is not maintaining the rental property
- unlawfully enters the rental unit
- alters the locking system without giving the tenant replacement keys
- withholds or deliberately interferes with a vital service
- interferes with the tenant’s reasonable enjoyment of the rental property
- harasses the tenant
If the tenant applies, they would have to prove to the Landlord and Tenant Board that ending the tenancy is a reasonable remedy.
You can visit your local Landlord and Tenant Board office. A list of Landlord and Tenant Board office locations can be found on the Landlord and Tenant Board website.
By Carlos Perdomo