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Early Lease Cancellation--Can I Do It?

Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (New Orleans office) LSC Funded

FAQ

Now you can listen to a sound recording of this LawHelp resource! Click here to listen. When the recording is over, click the "X" in the upper right-hand cornder to close the window and get back to LawHelp. 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.

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. For more information about repair issues, see the LawHelp item called "Repairs -- What Can I Do When My Landlord Won't Make Them?" on this site.

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.

Are there any other grounds for getting out of a lease early?

Other grounds for early lease cancellation include:

  • the landlord's substantial violation of lease, meaning the landlord does not do something important he or she is supposed to under the lease;
  • the landlord's fraudulent misrepresentations (deliberately giving you the wrong idea) about the safety of the neighborhood;
  • 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 that partially or totally destroys your apartment;
  • certain military orders to relocate.
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 the tenant's lease and the law for the subsidy program for the apartment or rental home:

  • loss of job;
  • severe illness;
  • you or a household member is the victim of domestic violence.

Be sure to check. There may be special reasons that would let you get out of your lease early.

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.

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 less 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.

Last Review and Update: Oct 03, 2006
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