Breaking a rental agreement often comes with misunderstandings and conflicts between the parties involved. Most of the time, those issues come around because the landlord or tenant didn't bother to read the rental agreement carefully.
Most of the time, the lease document already includes language that explains what landlords and tenants can do whenever they want to break a lease early. Today, we'll focus on what landlords can do if their tenants want to break a lease before it expires.
What Are the Notice Requirements to End a Lease in Maryland?
Similar to other states, Maryland requires tenants to provide written notice for certain lease terms:
- Weekly Leases - One week of notice.
- Monthly Leases - One month of notice.
- Yearly Leases - Three months of notice. If the landlord is working with a farm tenancy, the period is extended to six months of notice.
It's vital to note that tenants aren't required to send a notice letter for a fixed-term lease.
Regarding delivery, tenants are allowed to use one of the two following methods:
- Serving the notice letter in person.
- Sending the notice letter via registered or certified mail.
Failing to send the notice through one of these methods could result in several legal consequences for the tenant.
Is It Possible for Tenants to Break a Lease Early?
According to Maryland landlord-tenant law, tenants may be able to move out of the leased premises if they meet certain requirements. If they don't meet any of the requirements mentioned below, they may have to pay a penalty or face legal consequences once they move out.
Early Termination Clause
An 'Early Termination Clause' allows tenants to move out of the property before the lease term expires in exchange for a penalty. Depending on the case, the penalty may be equal to one or two months of rent.
However, there are some scenarios where a tenant may not have to pay a penalty for leaving early. This is why it's essential for both parties to review the terms of the lease agreement to see if there's any language that outlines what they can do here.
Keep in mind that taking any legal action without reviewing the terms of the lease agreement could bring many consequences to either party.
Every state in the U.S. has different health/safety codes that landlords must comply with if they want to rent their property successfully. Failing to follow these guidelines could result in the tenant being able to break the lease without any penalties.
The state of Maryland, specifically, requires landlords to get rid of any hazards or substantial threats that may attempt to affect the tenant's life or health. Some of these hazards or issues include:
- Any conditions that may represent a health or fire hazard within the property.
- A rodent infestation that affects two or more dwelling units.
- Any structural defect that poses a threat to the tenants' safety/security.
- A lack of waste/sewage disposal facilities.
- A lack of electricity, lighting, heat, or water. The only exception, in this case, is if the tenant is the one responsible for paying for those utilities and the reason there's a lack of these utilities is that the tenant isn't paying for them.
Active Military Duty
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers legal protection for those starting active military duty after they signed the lease agreement. Overall, the SCRA starts its protection from the date the person gets deployed and up to 30-90 days after they get discharged.
Tenants who want to end their lease under the protections of this act must prove they will remain on duty for at least 90 days and that they signed the lease before getting deployed.
Then, they must send a written notice to their landlord alongside a copy of the deployment orders. Tenants may also attach a copy from their commanding officer if it's available.
Keep in mind that tenants can't end the lease immediately; the earliest period they can consider to end the lease is 30 days after the next rent period starts.
Tenants in Maryland who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking may be able to request an early termination of the lease without paying a penalty. The state offers legal protection to those people who are able to prove their domestic violence status.
It's important to note that the landlord will be able to request proof of the tenant's domestic violence status. On the other hand, the tenant may provide any documentation they consider appropriate to prove their claim, including a copy of a protective or peace order.
In any case, the tenant will have 30 days after sending the notice to move out of the property.
Harassment or Privacy Violations
Some tenants may be able to break their lease without penalty if they can prove they're being harassed by their landlord repeatedly. In some cases, a severe privacy violation can be enough justification to allow the tenant to move out.
Two common scenarios include:
- Repeated Landlord Entry: Landlords must specify their right of entry in the lease document, as Maryland doesn't have any statutes that explain how much notice they must send before entering the property. It's considered appropriate to provide at least 24 hours of notice before entering the unit unless it's an emergency.
- Lock Changing: Maryland landlords aren't allowed to lock out their tenants in any way. They can't change/replace the locks of the property without the client's consent or permission. If the landlord still does this, the tenant could be relieved from the duties of the lease.
Medical Conditions or Senior Citizen Issues
In some cases, the tenant may be able to leave the leased premises if they have a severe medical condition or qualified disability that requires them to move out.
The tenant will need to provide the landlord with enough notice plus a written certification from a physician. If it's approved, the tenant won't be liable for more than two months of rent after they leave.
Other Reasons Tenants May Use to Move Out
Even though the arguments mentioned above are the most common ones, there are others that tenants may try to use. Depending on the case, the tenant may have to get these arguments approved by a court before leaving:
- The landlord repeatedly violates the terms of the lease.
- The landlord's contract is deemed unenforceable or illegal.
- The landlord failed to provide the mandatory disclosures required by Maryland law.
Unjustifiable Reasons to End a Lease
Finally, we have some alternative reasons that may not be enough justification for a tenant to break their lease without a penalty. In other words, these may not offer the legal protection the tenant may need to avoid penalties unless they pair it with something else.
- Buying a new house.
- Criminal activity around the property's area.
- Moving to be closer to friends, family, or partners.
- Moving out because of a divorce, separation, or any other reason.
- Upsizing or downsizing the property.
- Relocating because of a new job or school.
If the tenant fails to get a court's approval to end a lease for these reasons, they may still be liable for rent payments and may even face legal problems in the future.
What Can a Landlord Do to Enforce Penalties?
All landlords have the right to pursue compensation if their tenants vacate the unit before the lease expires. The best way to enforce penalties is to include an 'Early Lease Termination' clause that outlines all the consequences a tenant may face if they try to move out without a valid reason.
Landlords can either charge the tenant as a penalty or keep their security deposit to cover some of the owed rent. If the money isn't enough, they may seek further compensation through a small claims court.
In any case, the best thing both parties can do is to communicate properly and see if they can come up with a mutual termination agreement.
Do Landlords Need to Find a Replacement Tenant?
Maryland law requires all landlords to find a new tenant if the old one decides to break the lease early. If the landlord rents their property again successfully, then the old tenant won't be responsible for further rent payments.
In other words, the tenant will only be liable for all the money the landlord lost when the property was vacant. If the landlord fails to find a suitable tenant, they may not allow the tenant off the hook; they will have to pay what they owe until the lease expires.
Otherwise, the landlord may seek legal action.
Can Tenants Sublet the Rental Property to Pay Rent?
Tenants who want to break a lease in Maryland could sublet the property to someone else in order to get the rent money they owe.
However, the tenant should review the current lease document and see if there's any language that allows subletting. If there is, all the tenant has to do is send a formal, written request to their landlord that outlines the proposed terms for the sublet lease agreement.
The landlord may only refuse the request under legitimate factors unless they already stated in the rental agreement that subletting the apartment or rental unit isn't allowed.
Breaking a lease in Maryland may come with certain obstacles down the road, but if you prepare accordingly, you will be able to get the compensation for the lost rent you deserve.
Make sure you make a great effort to draft an excellent rental agreement, and once you find a suitable tenant, ensure they read through all the terms carefully before signing. This will be key in avoiding future problems during the rest of the lease term.
How Can a Tenant Legally Break a Lease in Maryland?
They must read through the lease terms carefully to see if there's any language that explains what they should do if they want to move out of the rental unit early.
Depending on the circumstances, the tenant may be able to avoid paying penalty fees. It's always recommended for the tenant to have proper communication with their landlord and send proper notice to avoid legal problems.
What Are the Penalties for Breaking a Lease Early in Maryland?
The penalties a tenant can receive for breaking a lease early may depend on the circumstances. Most of the time, the penalties will involve paying a fee, losing the security deposit, or getting sued if they don't comply.
Do Tenants Need to Send Notice Before Ending a Lease?
Tenants are required to give their landlord written notice if they have a periodic lease. The notice type will depend on the lease term both parties are working with at the moment.
Landlord-tenant laws in Maryland don't require tenants to provide written notice for a fixed-term lease, as it expires on its last day.
Can Landlords Sue Their Tenants for Not Paying Rent After Moving Out?
Landlords have the legal right to seek legal action if their old tenant refuses to pay rent once they move out. While Maryland law requires landlords to make a reasonable effort to find a new tenant, they may still charge the old one if they're not able to find a suitable replacement.
- Maryland Eviction Laws: The Process & Timeline In 2023
- Maryland Landlord Tenant Laws & Rights for 2023
- Maryland Security Deposit Laws | Deductions & Rights
- Maryland Squatter's Rights & Adverse Possession Laws
- Maryland Rent Control Laws (2023) | The Complete Guide
- Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) | United States Courts
- Section 8-211 - Maryland Real Property
- Section 8-402 - Maryland Real Property
- Section 8-212.2 - Maryland Real Property
- Section 8-5A-02 - Maryland Real Property
- Section 8-207 - Maryland Real Property