Breaking a lease in Oregon can easily become an overwhelming time for every landlord and property manager. If they don't take precautions, they may be at risk of losing money and time.

Thankfully, Oregon law has several guidelines in place to help landlords protect themselves whenever a tenant wants to break their lease agreement. In most cases, following these guidelines will ensure that the landlord gets appropriately compensated for everything.

However, it's essential to keep in mind that there are also certain laws that protect tenants who may want to end their lease agreement under special circumstances. Understanding what those circumstances are will help avoid legal problems in the future.

The following page will cover everything surrounding breaking a lease in Oregon. By the end, landlords will have a better and clearer idea of what they can (or can't) do if their tenant tries to move out and how they can prepare for that scenario.

What Are the Notice Guidelines for Ending a Rental Agreement in Oregon?

Tenants who want to break a lease in Oregon must comply with the state's notice requirements if they want to avoid penalties or other legal consequences.

Generally speaking, these are the two notice requirements needed, depending on the type of lease:

  • Yearly Leases with No End Date: At least 60 days of notice.
  • Monthly Leases: At least 30 days of notice.

Tenants must send proper notice to their landlord in writing. Oral notices aren't allowed.

On the other hand, tenants aren't required to provide any written notice for fixed-term leases.

How Can Tenants Send Notice Appropriately?

Landlords should always include their notice delivery requirements in their lease agreement. However, even if they don't specify how they would like to get their notice letter delivered, the tenant should ask them what they prefer.

There are many different delivery methods landlords can consider in Oregon, including:

  • Serving the letter in person.
  • Sending the letter via certified or registered mail.

Failing to send a notice letter the right way could result in many penalties or legal consequences for the tenant.

Can a Tenant in Oregon Break a Lease Early?

Tenants may be able to break a lease legally if they meet one of the requirements we'll explain below. While, in theory, tenants can break a lease in Oregon for any reason, not doing it for valid reasons will result in penalties for them.

Let's go over common valid reasons to break a lease in Oregon:

Active Military Duty

Tenants starting their active military duty may get protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The 'Act' protects service members who need to get relocated because of a deployment or a permanent change of station.

In most cases, the tenant will get protected from the date they enter active duty and until 30-90 days after they get discharged. Tenants who may want to break a lease in Oregon under this act may only do it 30 days after the next rent period starts.

Now, if the tenant wants to use this relief act for breaking a lease without penalties, they must do the following:

  • Deliver a written notice letter to the landlord alongside a copy of the deployment/PCS orders. They may also attach a copy of a letter from their commanding officer if it's available.
  • Prove they signed the lease before entering active duty.
  • Prove they will serve for the next 90 days.

The SCRA protects members and commissioned corps of the:

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

Early Termination Clause

Landlords may include an 'Early Termination Clause' in the lease agreement that outlines all the terms and conditions surrounding breaking a lease.

Typically, the landlord may allow the tenant to move out of the property in exchange for a penalty fee, which may vary depending on the circumstances. Both parties are suggested to review the terms of these clauses carefully in order to understand what to do and avoid legal problems.

In some cases, the early termination clause may also include language that outlines some special cases where the tenant may not have to pay a penalty, which is why it's so important for everyone to read these terms before enforcing any legal action.

Landlord Harassment or Continuous Privacy Violations

Some tenants may be able to legally break their lease under the argument that they're being harassed by their landlord. They may also argue that they're getting their privacy violated. If they're able to prove that this is happening constantly, they could avoid penalty fees.

Here are two common scenarios that count as harassment in Oregon:

  • Changing the Locks or Removing Doors/Windows: Landlords in Oregon aren't allowed to lock out their tenants. In other words, they can't change the locks of the property without the tenant's consent, as that's considered a 'constructive eviction.' The same applies to removing doors or windows without permission.
  • Entering the Property without Notice: Every landlord in Oregon must provide their tenant with 24 hours of notice if they want to enter the property. Moreover, they must specify the reason for entering, the date and time, and who is going to enter. If the landlord fails to do this, the tenant may be able to break the lease legally.

Domestic Violence

The state of Oregon offers legal protection to victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. If the tenant is able to prove their current status as a victim of domestic violence, they may send a notice letter to their landlord to legally break the lease.

It's important to note that landlords are entitled to verify these claims. In any case, the tenant may send a 14-day notice before making a termination request.

On the other hand, if the tenant doesn't want to move out, they may also request to get the unit's locks changed by the landlord. However, the tenant will be responsible for all the expenses related to that task.

Finally, Oregon law also protects the tenant's immediate family, so if they're also victims of domestic violence, they may request to get an early termination of the lease.

Uninhabitable Property

Every state has certain safety and health codes that every landlord must comply with. These codes are meant to provide a standard for safety in a rental unit, and if landlords don't follow these rules, they may get exposed to legal problems.

In Oregon, landlords are required to keep their units in good and safe working order. Otherwise, the tenant would be relieved of their duty to keep paying rent, as the landlord failed to meet their responsibilities under the law.

Generally speaking, all rental units in Oregon must include the following:

  • Effective waterproofing and weather protection measures
  • Plumbing and electrical facilities/appliances in good working order
  • Air conditioning, ventilating, and other related facilities in good working order
  • Property free of filth, garbage, vermin, or rodents
  • Smoke detectors and alarms in good working order
  • Working locks for all entrance doors and latches for windows
  • Working carbon monoxide alarm (if the property is located near a carbon monoxide source)

Repeated Violations of the Lease Agreement

Finally, if the landlord violates the lease continually, the tenant may be able to end the agreement without penalties. It's important for both parties to read the lease carefully to determine if there was a violation or not.

If a landlord in Oregon violates the lease agreement, the tenant may send written notice that specifies all the damages or violations the landlord made.

The landlord, in this case, will have seven days to fix the problem if it involves an essential service or 30 days if it involves any other problem. If they fail to fix the issue, the lease will automatically end 30 days after the notice was sent.

On the other hand, if the landlord fixes the problem but then keeps violating the lease within six months, the tenant will have the legal right to end the lease early by sending a 14-day notice specifying the specific violation the landlord made.

Remember that every lease is different, so the best way to avoid legal problems and penalties is to review all of the terms carefully before signing and/or taking any legal action.

Are There Other Valid Reasons to End a Rental Lease in Oregon?

We've just covered all the reasons that may allow a tenant to break a lease without penalty in Oregon. However, there are a few other ones that may be valid but need to get reviewed by a court first.

These include:

  • Not being able to comply with the state's mandatory disclosures. If the landlord fails to notify the tenant about any known defects of the property, the tenant may use that as an argument to break the lease.
  • Landlords who use a lease document that's deemed illegal later face the risk of getting it terminated without an option to recover money in penalties.
  • Some states require landlords to provide reasonable accommodation for senior citizens or people with qualified disabilities, as requested by the 'Americans with Disabilities' or the 'Fair Housing' Act.

In any case, the best thing a landlord can do is to seek legal counsel to see which of these arguments apply to their case.

Invalid Arguments for Breaking a Lease in Oregon

Unfortunately for tenants, not all arguments may provide them with the legal protection they need to avoid penalty fees. The following list will include some common arguments that typically don't provide enough justification on their own to end a lease:

  • Buying a new house.
  • Moving to be closer to another person (family member, friend, etc.)
  • Moving out because of a divorce or separation.
  • Moving in with a partner, close friend, or relative.
  • Upgrading or downgrading.
  • Relocating for a new school or job.
  • Moving out because of criminal activity in the area.

Most of the time, it's better for tenants to talk to their landlord first before attempting to end a lease under these arguments. That way, they may be able to avoid some penalties or legal issues.

Can Landlords in Oregon Get Compensated After a Tenant Moves Out of the Rental Property Early?

As long as you make reasonable efforts to draft a proper lease document, you will avoid most misunderstandings that come from breaking a lease. Most of the time, you will be able to get compensated if your tenant moves out of the property before the term expires.

One of the best ways to enforce penalties is to include an early termination clause. Once the tenant signs the document, they will have to abide by the rules established there if they want to avoid a lawsuit, so make sure you're as detailed as possible when outlining the terms and conditions in these clauses.

Another option you can consider is to encourage your tenant to communicate properly if they ever have an issue with the property or the lease. If they send proper notice before moving out, you will have an easier time recovering from that and finding a new tenant.

In any case, you can use penalty fees to cover what you're owed, including:

  • Owed rent
  • Advertising expenses
  • Tenant screening expenses

If the tenant fails to comply with your penalty guidelines after signing the lease agreement, you will have the legal right to seek counsel from a lawyer.

Do Landlords Have a Responsibility to Find a New Tenant?

All landlords in Oregon have the legal responsibility to find a new tenant in an effort to "mitigate damages." In other words, if a tenant ends the lease early for any reason, the landlord has a duty to find a replacement instead of sitting back and charging the tenant for all the owed money.

Once the landlord is able to find a new tenant, they may credit the incoming rent to the previous person's debt. Overall, the old tenant will only be liable for the money the landlord lost when the property was vacant.

Keep in mind that if you don't make a reasonable effort to re-rent the property or accept the abandonment as a 'surrender,' the lease agreement will be automatically considered terminated, meaning the tenant may not have to pay the rest of the money they owe.

In these cases, the landlord may keep the tenant's deposit to cover the debt. Still, if the deposit isn't enough, the landlord may take the case to a small claims court. The limit in Oregon for these cases is $10,000.

Even though landlords in Oregon have a duty to re-rent their property, they can charge their old tenant for any legitimate expenses involved, including advertising and tenant screening costs.

Can Tenants Sublet the Property/Dwelling Unit to Pay Rent?

Tenants, in some cases, may be able to sublet the rental unit if they get permission from their landlord. First, they must check the lease to see if it has any clauses about subletting.

The only scenario where a tenant may not sublet the property is if there's a clause in the lease agreement that specifically prohibits it.

If it's allowed, the tenant may send the landlord written notice through certified mail. The sublet letter should include all the terms necessary to get the process started, including the personal information of the proposed tenant, written consent, signatures, etc.

It's important to note that, most times, certified mail is the only delivery method accepted by courts, as they're able to prove that the tenant sent proper notice to their landlord.

Landlords, on the other hand, have the right to approve or refuse the request. If they're refusing, they may only do it based on legitimate and reasonable factors, as Oregon law doesn't allow landlords to refuse sublet requests unreasonably.

Bottom Line

The key to avoiding most misunderstandings when renting is to draft a detailed and reasonable lease agreement. However, even if you did everything correctly, we recommend you keep in constant communication with your tenant to lower the chances of getting into a problem.

Including an 'Early Lease Termination' clause will be of great help if you're looking to enforce penalties whenever a tenant tries to move out without a valid reason.

In any case, make sure you review the terms of your documents thoroughly to ensure they're appropriate for your specific case. Moreover, ensure your tenant understands all these terms before signing, as that will help in the future if they try to move out of the apartment or dwelling unit.


Can Tenants End a Lease Early for Any Reason in Oregon?

Technically speaking, tenants can end their rental agreement for any reason. However, they may not get legal protection against penalty fees.

In other words, those who break their lease without a valid reason may have to keep paying rent until the term expires. Otherwise, the landlord may take legal action.

It's essential for all the parties involved in a rental lease to review its terms and see if there's any language that explains what to do in case of an early termination.

What Are the Consequences for a Tenant If They Break Their Lease?

It depends on the case. If the rental agreement has an early termination clause, the landlord may charge their tenant penalty fees. However, there are other consequences the tenant may face if they refuse to pay rent until the lease expires.

First, the landlord may report the case to the credit bureau, which means the tenant may get a lower credit score, making it harder for them to get a loan or rent in the future.

On the other hand, the tenant will likely get a bad reputation if they leave a rental unit without a valid reason, making it harder for them to rent in the future.

Finally, tenants who fail to pay the money they owe for the rental agreement may get sued by their landlords. In these cases, the tenant may end up paying the owed rent, as well as lawyer/court fees.

When Should Landlords Seek Legal Advice?

It's recommended to seek legal advice if the landlord and tenant can't come to a mutual agreement. If the tenant refuses to pay what they owe and are leaving the property for an unjustifiable reason, then the landlord may want to take legal action.

Is It Possible to Keep the Tenant's Security Deposit After the Tenant Moves Out Early?

It's possible for landlords to keep the tenant's security deposit if they end the lease early. This is one of the most common 'penalties' landlords enforce.

However, if the landlord isn't able to cover all the owed money with the deposit amount, they may take the case to a small claims court to get the rest.

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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!