Tenants who sign a lease agreement in Georgia must comply with all its terms to avoid legal problems, and those terms include staying on the property until the lease expires.
However, there may be some reasons for tenants to move out of the rental property early. What can landlords do if a tenant breaks their lease early? This page aims to answer that question and give you more information about penalties, legal consequences, and more.
Landlord-tenant laws in Georgia require tenants to provide written notice to their landlord in periodic leases, particularly these:
- Monthly Leases - 30 days of notice.
- Yearly Leases - 30 days of notice.
Tenants aren't required to send a written notice to their landlord in fixed-term leases. This is because these leases already have a fixed end date.
As for the delivery of the lease, the landlord has the right to choose the method they prefer. These include delivering the letter in person, sending it through registered/certified email, etc.
Can Tenants End a Lease Early in Georgia?
Yes, tenants may legally break their lease for any reason. However, Georgia law establishes some conditions that need to be met if that tenant wants to avoid paying penalties.
Here's an overview:
Early Termination Clause
Including an "Early Termination Clause" helps both the landlord and tenant end a lease agreement without any severe legal problems.
These clauses outline everything the tenant should know if they want to break a lease before it expires. It's recommended for anyone looking to break a lease in Georgia to review the lease agreement to see if it has an early termination clause and what its terms are.
Active Military Duty
Those starting active military duty may be able to break their lease early under the protection that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives them.
In these cases, the tenant must send notice to their landlord before breaking the lease. They must also provide proof that they:
- Entered military duty after they signed the lease
- Will remain on duty for at least 90 days after sending the notice
Most tenants also attach a copy of the deployment/relocation orders to their notice so that they have further proof of what they're saying. In any case, the tenant may only terminate the lease agreement 30 days after the next rent period starts.
This protection applies to Georgia Air National Guard, the Armed Forces, and US Coast Guard members.
Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation
Some tenants may be able to break their lease agreements under the argument that they're being harassed by their landlords. Here are two common scenarios that may apply if tenants are considering breaking a lease early:
- Lock Changes - Landlords in Georgia can't change the locks of their rental unit without their tenant's consent unless they have a court order or an emergency.
- Landlord Entry - Even though the state doesn't provide landlords with any specific rules surrounding entry notices, it's considered appropriate to provide at least 24 hours of notice unless the landlord has a court order or emergency.
Doing any of these things would be considered a "constructive eviction," which means the tenants would be relieved of all their duties in the lease.
Uninhabitable Rental Property
Every new tenant has the right to request repairs for the property if they notice any health or safety hazard. Landlords, on the other hand, have the responsibility of doing these repairs promptly.
If the landlord fails to provide the repairs needed in time, the tenant may be able to break the lease early without any penalties.
Georgia allows domestic violence victims to break their leases early since 2018. However, they should be able to meet the following requirements:
- The tenant must provide a civil/criminal family violence order or any other document that states the perpetrator isn't allowed to be near them.
- The tenant must provide notice before breaking a lease, and they must also attach a copy of the criminal/family violence order or any other applicable documentation.
Moreover, the lease itself should have started or been made on July 1, 2018, or any later date. This also applies to any lease extensions.
Here's a list of reasons tenants may use to break a lease in Georgia. While those reasons are still valid, they may have to get evaluated and approved by a court:
- The landlord failed to disclose any mandatory information required by law.
- The property doesn't have any accommodations for people with a qualified disability.
- The landlord is trying to enforce an illegal contract.
- The landlord violated the lease's terms in any way.
Finally, we have a list of reasons that are often not enough justification on their own for a tenant to break a lease without paying penalties.
In other words, if the tenant tries to break their lease using one of the following arguments, they may still be liable for any remaining rent payments:
- They're moving to be closer to a family member, close friend, or partner.
- They're moving out because of a divorce or separation.
- They're downsizing or upsizing.
- They're relocating for a new school or job.
- They purchased a new house.
Yes, landlords can get compensated if their tenants want to break their lease before it expires. In most cases, the tenant will be responsible for either paying a penalty fee or paying rent until the lease ends.
Some landlords sue their tenants in a small claims court to get further compensation for the financial damage they got.
These "penalty fees" are used to cover:
- Owed rent
- Re-rental expenses
- Other reasonable/applicable expenses
If you want to enforce your penalties the right way, make sure you include an "Early Termination Clause" in your lease. That way, the tenant will not be able to break their lease without any penalties.
Remember that once both parties sign the document, it becomes legally binding. This means that tenants who try to break the lease without a valid reason may face legal consequences if they don't comply with the terms they agreed upon.
Now, some tenants may try to negotiate with their landlords to come up with a mutual termination agreement. If the landlord approves this request, then both parties must create a document with all of the termination terms and then sign it.
If the tenant doesn't want to pay penalties, they may try to help the landlord find a replacement tenant quickly. However, landlords don't have to lower their renting standards to find a new tenant faster, and if they're not able to find one, the old tenant will still have to pay for the remaining rent.
Re-renting The Property
Georgia is one of the few states that doesn't require landlords to make a reasonable effort to find a new tenant. In other words, if the tenant wants to break a lease, they may still be responsible for any remaining rent if the landlord doesn't want to find another person right away.
Subletting The Property
Every tenant is allowed to sublet the property if their landlord gives them permission to. Some lease agreements already include a "Subletting" clause that states the terms the tenant needs to meet to do it.
If the lease doesn't have any language for subletting, then they can send a letter to their landlord for a subletting request. Landlords are free to refuse the request, as long as the refusal is based on appropriate factors.
That's all you need to know about breaking a lease legally in Georgia. Once both parties have a legally binding contract for a commercial or residential property, it's essential to meet all of its clauses if they want to avoid any legal problems in the future.
In any case, make sure you communicate with your tenant constantly and review the landlord-tenant laws in your state to ensure you develop a healthy lease relationship. This will lower the chances of them breaking the lease without a valid reason.
Can Landlords Evict Their Tenants for Not Paying Rent?
Yes, a landlord in Georgia can break a lease if their tenant refuses to pay rent. Depending on the case, they may send a notice to pay or quit, and if the tenant still refuses to pay, they may get a final notice to move out of the property.
Do Tenants Always Have to Send Written Notice Before Breaking a Lease?
Tenants only have to send notice if they want to break a periodic lease. Georgia law doesn't require tenants to send a notice letter for fixed-term leases.
What Happens If Any of the Parties Violates the Lease Agreement Terms?
If the landlord violates the lease's terms, the tenant may be considered "constructively evicted," meaning they may be able to leave without paying penalties.
On the other hand, if the tenant violates the lease terms, the landlord may pursue legal action to evict them.
Can Tenants Legally Break a Lease for Any Reason?
Yes. However, if the tenant wants to avoid penalty fees for breaking the lease, they must meet one of the conditions we explained on this page.