The state of Minnesota has several rules in place for those who want to end a lease agreement before it expires. Several tenants attempt to break the rental lease without any consequences, but if the landlord takes the necessary steps, they may take legal action successfully.

While there are some cases where any party could end the agreement before the lease expires, it's essential to review the law and the terms of the lease to avoid unnecessary problems.

The following page will cover everything you need to know about breaking a lease early, including the lease termination notice requirements, conditions for breaking the lease agreement legally, and what steps you can take if you want to enforce penalties and get compensated for the potential money you lost after the tenant moved out.

What Are the Standard Notice Requirements?

In any case surrounding periodic agreements, the tenant must give their landlord written notice before the lease expires. The amount of notice will depend on the type of agreement both parties had in the first place:

  • Weekly Lease: Three months or an amount of time equal to the interval between rent payments, whichever is less.
  • Monthly Lease: Three months or an amount of time equal to the interval between rent payments, whichever is less.

Minnesota law doesn't require tenants to send written notice to end a fixed-term lease, as it expires on its last set day.

How Do Tenants Give Their Landlord Written Notice Legally?

Currently, tenants have two methods to send the notice letter to their landlords:

  • In-person delivery.
  • Registered/certified mail.

It's recommended that tenants ask their landlord first or check the lease agreement to see which delivery method they prefer. If the tenant fails to send appropriate notice before moving out of the rental property, they may face legal consequences, including penalties.

Can Tenants Move Out of the Apartment or Rental Unit Without Penalty?

In most cases, tenants won't have a problem breaking a lease in Minnesota, as long as they provide proper notice and comply with the rules established in the agreement.

Breaking the lease illegally will expose the tenant to penalty fees and other legal issues down the road, which is why it's important for both parties to follow all the guidelines Minnesota law has in place for these cases.

Below is a list of all the exceptions that tenants may consider when breaking a lease, as they could help them prevent penalty fees.

Active Military Duty

Tenants starting active military duty may get protection from the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). As long as they can prove they signed the lease before entering duty and that they will stay deployed for at least 90 days, they may be able to avoid penalties.

The SCRA protects members and commissioned corps of the:

  • Armed Forces
  • Public Health Service
  • Activated National Guard
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

All the tenant has to do is send their landlord a notice letter with an attached copy of the deployment orders or the commanding officer's orders, whichever works best.

It's essential to note that the tenant won't be able to end the lease immediately. The earliest they can end it is 30 days after the next rent period starts.

Early Termination Clause

An 'Early Termination Clause' is a section in your lease that will outline all the terms and conditions tenants need to know if they want to break their lease early.

Overall, this is the best way to prevent misunderstandings between both parties. Most landlords decide to let the tenant break the lease in exchange for a penalty fee, which is often equal to one or two months of rent.

Once the tenant signs the lease, they will automatically agree to pay those penalty fees if they ever try to move out without a valid reason.

Uninhabitable Unit

In most states, landlords have to comply with certain health and safety codes that will ensure the property is fit for living. Minnesota has several rules in place to promote healthier living standards in all rental properties.

If the landlord isn't able to comply with the following rules, the tenant will be able to break the lease without paying penalties:

  • The unit, as well as its common areas, should be fit for their intended use.
  • All the premises should be kept in good repair. In other words, the landlord has the legal responsibility of providing necessary repairs within a reasonable timeframe, unless the damage was caused by the tenant's willful or irresponsible behavior.
  • The unit should be energy efficient. Landlords must install caulking, storm doors, storm windows, and other items to promote cost savings.
  • All common areas and structures should comply with applicable health and safety laws in Minnesota.

Domestic Violence, Sexual Extortion, or Similar Problems

Tenants in Minnesota are protected if they're victims of criminal sexual conduct, domestic violence, harassment, or other similar issues.

In essence, tenants are allowed to end their lease if they can show proof of their domestic violence status. They must send a proper notice with an attached copy of any valid protection order, no-contact order, or valid statement by a law enforcement agent or official.

Landlords are entitled to verify a tenant's claims surrounding domestic violence. If the claims are true, the tenant will be able to end the agreement and will only be responsible for rent for the month in which they ended the tenancy, as well as an additional payment of one month's rent.

On the other hand, landlords aren't allowed to disclose any information surrounding the tenant's domestic abuse case. Moreover, if the tenant lives with other people in the unit, it's important to note that the lease termination will only apply to the victim and not to the rest of the people.

Landlord Harassment

Landlords in Minnesota may lose their right to enforce penalties if the tenant is able to prove they're being harassed by them. Here are two common scenarios that will be considered harassment in the eyes of the law:

  • Changing the Locks: Landlords in Minnesota aren't allowed to lock out their tenants in any way. In other words, they can't change the locks of the property without the tenant's consent.
  • Entering the Property: Landlords are required to provide reasonable 'notice and reason' when trying to enter the property. If they fail to do this, the tenant may be considered 'constructively evicted.'

Other Valid Reasons for Ending a Lease Early in Minnesota

Here, you will find other "valid" arguments tenants may use to break a lease. Even though these arguments are legal to use, they may have to get approved by a court of law first:

  • The landlord used an illegal contract, meaning they can't enforce it anymore.
  • The landlord failed to provide the tenant with the mandatory disclosures required by law.
  • The landlord was required to make reasonable accommodations for people with a qualified disability under the Fair Housing Act/Americans with Disabilities Act and didn't do it.
  • The landlord repeatedly violated the terms of the lease agreement.

Are There Any Unjustifiable Reasons for Breaking a Lease in Minnesota?

Even though there are many valid reasons for tenants to avoid paying rent for the rest of the term, there are a few reasons that may not be able to provide them with the legal protection they need to prevent penalties.

Generally speaking, trying to break a lease under any of the following arguments could end up in serious legal consequences for the tenant:

  • Buying a new house.
  • Moving closer to friends, partners, or family.
  • Moving in with someone else.
  • Upgrading or downsizing a property.
  • Relocating for another job, school, etc.
  • Relocating because of local criminal activity.

Is It Possible for Landlords to Get Compensated After a Tenant Breaks Their Lease?

If a tenant moves out of the rental unit before the lease expires, the least they can do is keep paying rent until the set end date. However, some tenants may argue that they don't have to do that.

Still, if the tenant signed a lease that clearly states they can't move out of the property without a valid reason, you may be entitled to compensation.

The best way to enforce penalties in these cases is to include an 'Early Termination Clause' that outlines all the consequences the tenant will experience if they try to break the lease illegally. In most cases, the tenant will be more likely to comply in order to avoid penalty fees.

On the other hand, you may be open to negotiating with your tenant to see if you can come to a mutual agreement. Depending on the case, the tenant may offer to help you find a replacement tenant fast, give you their security deposit, or offer other solutions.

If you can't cover the remaining rent payment through the proposed solutions, and you already made a reasonable effort to solve the issue through other channels, you may still charge the old one for the rest of the money they owe.

Finally, you can file a claim through a small claims court to get the remaining rent balance you're owed. The limit for these claims in Minnesota is $15,000.

In any case, make sure you keep constant and assertive communication with your tenant throughout the lease term. This will ensure you avoid most misunderstandings or problems down the road.

Do Landlords in Minnesota Have to Re-Rent the Unit to a New Tenant?

Unfortunately for tenants, landlords aren't required by law to make reasonable efforts to 'mitigate damages.'

In many states, landlords have a duty to mitigate damages by finding a new tenant to cover the rent they're owed. If the landlord is able to find a replacement in time, the tenant would only be liable for the money the landlord lost when the property was vacant.

However, in this case, landlords can charge their tenants for the rest of the lease term right away, and if the tenant refuses or isn't able to do it, the former may seek legal action, which can put extra stress on the tenant.

The best thing tenants can do here is to negotiate with their landlord. On the other hand, they can move out and hope the landlord finds someone else fast, although this isn't a convenient option.

In any case, trying to negotiate with a landlord doesn't guarantee any positive outcomes, as the landlord has the right to refuse the negotiation and charge the tenant anyway.

Can Tenants Sublet the Property to Pay Rent?

Tenants can sublet the rental unit if they get permission from their landlord. Sometimes, the lease may already include a clause that outlines all the requirements needed for the tenant to sublet the unit to someone else.

Then, all the tenant has to do is send a letter to the landlord with the proposed sublet terms, which include the new tenant's information and other essential information.

Landlords can't refuse the request unless it's for a valid and legitimate reason.

Bottom Line

Breaking a lease doesn't have to be as overwhelming as other people make it to be. Even though we can't control if a tenant wants to move out at any point, we can control how we protect ourselves in these cases.

Considering all the information we just mentioned will help you craft a more detailed and comprehensive lease agreement document. Moreover, this will ensure you get covered in case the tenant decides to leave the property without a valid reason.


Can Tenants Get Out of a Lease Early in Minnesota?

Tenants can get out of a lease if they send proper notice, comply with the lease's terms, and negotiate accordingly. Failing to end the lease appropriately will result in penalties and other legal consequences

Does Minnesota Law Have Any Guidelines in Case a Tenant Fails to Pay Rent?

Landlords have the legal right to file a claim with a small claims court if the tenant refuses to pay the rent they owe after moving out. Some people decide to hire a debt collector agency too.

Breaking the lease's terms in any way will result in severe legal penalties for the tenant.

Can a Landlord Keep the Security Deposit as a Penalty?

Yes, Minnesota landlords are allowed to keep the tenant's security deposit as a penalty. However, if the amount of the deposit isn't enough to cover all the money owed, the landlord may seek further compensation through a small claims court.

When Is a Tenant Relieved from Further Rent Obligation?

A tenant will be able to avoid penalties and get relieved from their duties in the lease if they meet one of the exceptions mentioned on this page.

On the other hand, if the tenant is able to negotiate with their landlord, they may also be able to get lower fees or avoid them altogether, although that outcome may depend on how willing the landlord is to negotiate.

Finally, if the landlord repeatedly violates the lease terms (i.e., enforcing a rent increase mid-lease), the tenant may seek legal action and end the agreement.

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David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!