Can I Cancel My Lease Early?
Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services & Lagniappe Law Lab
About Early Lease Cancellation
I just signed a lease. Can I change my mind and get out of the lease? +
No, you can't just change your mind and get out of the lease. Read your lease to see what it says about canceling your lease or ending your lease early. If you don't move in, the landlord will keep your deposit and may impose other penalties stated in the lease or agreement. Before you sign a lease, read it very well, inspect the place you are going to rent, and make sure you want to rent the property.
My landlord won't fix things. Can I get out of the lease? +
If you have a month-to-month lease, you can usually cancel the lease by giving your landlord 10 days written notice before the end of the rental month. Check your lease though, because many leases require 30 days’ notice. Even if your written lease expired, the terms of the lease still apply just on a month-to-month basis.
But it can be hard to cancel fixed-term leases (which usually have a term of 6 months or 1 year).
If the apartment has serious repair problems or defects and is unfit to live in, you may be able to cancel early. But it is possible that a judge may find that the landlord's lease violations were not bad enough to cancel the lease. Then you could be held responsible for paying extra rent and penalties.
Give the landlord written notice of the repair problems and a reasonable time to fix them. Read your lease to see what it says about if you can cancel the lease early and how to cancel the lease early.
Does the landlord's failure to make repairs make it difficult or impossible for a disabled person in your family to live there? This could give you a stronger case to cancel early.
My home is unsafe. Can I get out of my lease? +
It depends. To get out of your lease early, a Court would have to find that the landlord substantially violated their duty of maintaining a safe premises.
The landlord must be made aware of the unsafe condition of the premises and be given time to remedy the danger. Make sure that you make all of your complaints to your landlord IN WRITING, document all of your communications, and document the landlord's failure or refusal to act.
You will need all of this to be able to show that the landlord violated their duty and you were justified in cancelling the lease. If you are unable to show that the landlord was told of the issue and failed to repair it, you could be liable for significant monetary and legal penalties.
Are there any other grounds for getting out of a lease early? +
You may be able to get out of your lease early if:
- the landlord substantially violates the lease, meaning the landlord does not do something important he or she is supposed to under the lease;
- you are a survivor of sexual assault (use this tool to see if you qualify, create the required letter(s) for your landlord, and learn next steps)
- the landlord does not stop other tenants from doing things that interfere seriously with your ability to enjoy and live in the place you rent (what the law calls your "peaceful possession" of the property);
- a flood or fire partially or totally destroys your apartment;
- you have a disability-related reason why you need to get out of the lease early, for example, your apartment has stairs and you can no longer climb stairs due to a disability (you may need verification from a qualified professional, like a doctor, nurse, or social worker);
- you are a survivor of domestic violence and need to move early for safety reasons; or
- certain military orders to relocate.
Make sure you put your request to move before the end of your lease, and reasons for doing so, in writing. You may want to consult with an attorney before breaking your lease.
What if I live in public or subsidized housing? +
If you are renting federally-subsidized housing, you may be able to get out of your lease early.
Check your lease and get information about the type of subsidized housing you live in.
Here are examples of some things that might let you cancel early, depending on your lease and the law for the subsidy program for the apartment or rental home:
- repeated failed inspections by the Housing Authority;
- severe illness or other disability that makes it necessary for you to move;
- you or a household member is a survivor of domestic violence.
Note: If you live in public housing, or have a Section 8 voucher, you should not move early without permission from the Housing Authority. Doing so could result in the loss of your housing assistance.
I am in active military service and received relocation orders -- may I get out of my lease? +
Yes, if you are an active or reserve member of the U.S. military, Louisiana law (R.S. 9:3261) gives you the right to cancel your lease if any of the following happens:
- you receive initial or permanent change of station orders to go 35 miles or more from the location of your apartment;
- you receive initial or temporary duty orders greater than three (3) months to go 35 miles or more from the location of your apartment;
- you are discharged, released or retire;
- you are ordered to live in government-supplied quarters;
- you are notified of the availability of government-supplied quarters, which were not available at the time you signed the lease, provided that you had notified the landlord in writing that you had a pending request for such quarters at the time the lease was signed;
- you are injured incidental to service in the military, which requires hospitalization for more than fifteen days.
If any of the above happens, you should immediately give your landlord written notice of your termination of the lease. You must give the landlord at least 30 days' notice. You cannot terminate more than 60 days before the departure date necessary to comply with your orders.
The law also says: "Prior to the termination date, the lessee shall furnish the lessor with a copy of the official notification of orders, or a signed letter confirming the orders from the lessee's commanding officer, or a statement signed by the housing officer certifying that no government-supplied quarters were available at the time the lease was executed."
If you have been in the apartment for less than six (6) months as of the effective date of lease termination, you can only be held responsible for 30 days of rent. If you have been there more than six (6) months, the landlord can only charge you one-half month's rent. You should get your security deposit back if you have not damaged the apartment.
Any clause in the lease that gives you fewer rights is null and void.
Before you sign a lease, try to work out an early termination lease clause with your landlord. Many landlords understand the problems that military personnel face and may give you more favorable termination rights than those guaranteed by federal and Louisiana law.
Please note: if your loved one is killed during military service, you have a right to cancellation of her lease agreement. You must provide notice as outlined above. If you do so, the landlord cannot charge you for rent due through the end of the lease.