As a Chester County landlord, one of the most frustrating things is when a tenant wants to break their lease and move out early. Not only is this costly, but then you have an unexpected vacancy. As a landlord, it is essential to know your rights. You also need to know the legal justifications for breaking a lease in a Chester County rental home and how you can overcome this challenge.
Why can my tenants legally break a lease in a Chester County rental property?
Most times, the tenant cannot break the contract without having to pay a termination fee; however, there are certain circumstances in which you may be obligated to let them out penalty-free! If you’re unsure of when tenants can legally break a lease in a Chester, you may want to contact a property manager.
#1 – Maintenance Violations
Any emergency maintenance requests that are ignored or not handled in a timely fashion can be cause for a lease break. As a landlord, one of your top priorities should be maintaining your property. Below are some items that must be maintained or quickly repaired at your Chester County rental property:
- Lack of running water
- Lack of heat or hot water
- Non-working appliances
- Pest infestations
- Dirty common areas
For a tenant to be able to break their lease for maintenance reasons, they have to either complain to the local Department of Health or place a complaint with their landlord or property manager. If they go the route of the health department, a claim is submitted and if proven to be accurate, they will issue an order for the landlord to fix the issue or allow a lease break within an allotted amount of time. If they complain to you directly, we suggest doing all you can to not only fix the issue but go above and beyond to apologize and show it won’t happen again. However, this won’t be an issue if you respond to maintenance calls and keep the property clean and up to code.
#2 – Rental Property Safety
If the tenant claims to be breaking the lease due to a safety reason, just like with the health violation, they can put in a claim with the local Department of Safety. An inspector will then come out and check if the complaint is valid. If it is, then the landlord will get the same notice as mentioned above with a certain amount of days to rectify the situation. Just like above, if you respond to requests quickly and put residents’ safety first, then this won’t be a valid claim anyways.
Some safety concerns that validate breaking a lease:
- Hazardous conditions such as; broken fences, window and door lock issues, or faulty/poor lighting. These issues are easily remedied and should be done immediately. It goes along with the maintenance section above.
- Local crime concerns. Crime is a sticky one and won’t always be a valid reason to break a lease, especially if the crime level is the same as it was when the tenant moved in. If a property is burglarized or tenants are physically harmed by violence, then they are well within their rights to break the lease.
#3 – Active Duty Military
Even if this weren’t a legal right for lease termination, it would still be the right thing to do! Most of the time, this issue can be avoided by allowing short-term leases. In some circumstances, though, active-duty military personnel may be deployed without warning. In this case, will enable them to break the lease and move on. A good lease will include a military clause that outlines the tenant’s rights in accordance with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
#4 – Domestic Violence
If a tenant is a victim of domestic violence, they may terminate their lease and move. This is for the safety of the individual. In a relationship where the abusive party knows where the tenant lives, it becomes a safety issue for both the tenant and the property in general. In this case, not allowing a tenant to leave would cause more damage for you anyways. Domestic violence results in police involvement, damage to property, and safety issues for those nearby.
#5 – Illegal entering of the property
Always give notice before entering a property. This applies to inspections, maintenance (even if the resident requested it), and any other reason that you’d need to enter. A verbal or written “yes” is necessary for entering. The best thing to do is try not to enter unless the resident is home and gives permission. In some circumstances, this rule could be broken. For example, a floor or fire or other emergency occurring in the resident’s home while they are out. Other than extreme conditions like those, just don’t enter, and this will never be a concern.
What are my rights as a Landlord?
As a landlord, you have rights, and tenants cannot break their lease without reason. First of all, for health and safety concerns, you have the right to remedy the situation within the given amount of time by the local department(s). Also, if the tenant is claiming to leave without a valid and legal lease break reason, you have the right to collect the remaining rent and other fees. You are also within your power to charge an early termination fee and there should be an early termination clause that clearly outlines the fees associated with breaking the lease.
Keep tenants happy!
Just keep your tenant happy and avoid any reasons for early termination. Apart from the listed items above and not allowing them to happen, there are some things to you can do to maintain tenant happiness and hopefully keep them longer.
- Survey them annually or every 6-months and address any positive or negative feedback they may have.
- Offer renewal incentives or a home cleaning between leases
- Keep the property extra clean and go above and beyond reasonable standards
- Offer some utility upgrades when needed like a new washer/dryer or a new microwave
- Be friendly, approachable and easy to reach (and make sure your staff is as well)
In the end, having your tenant leave your rental property prematurely is a tough thing to handle. There is a lot of responsibility that goes along with managing your rental property and early lease terminations can be quite a headache.
Consider having a Chester County property management company counties help manage your rental properties.
With full leasing services and experts on hand to work with you to address issues such as lease terminations, Bay Property Management Group will help you every step of the way. Knowledgeable in all Pennsylvania laws regarding renting, contractual leases, and the processes that follow a tenant breaking their lease, you can rest assured your rental property and money will be in good hands.