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4.5 Breaking a Lease

If you have to move out before your fixed-term tenancy ends (often referred to as “breaking a lease”), you have a few options to consider:

  • Mutual Agreement – Your landlord may simply agree to end your tenancy early. To help convince your landlord, do what you can to help them find a new tenant.  For example, offer to advertise your unit and cooperate when it is being shown to potential replacements. If your landlord is willing to end your tenancy early, be sure to fill out a Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy form.
  • Assignment and Sublet – Assigning your tenancy means finding another tenant to permanently take over your agreement. Subletting your tenancy means finding another tenant to temporarily take over your agreement.  In order to assign or sublet your tenancy, you must have your landlord's written consent. However, if your fixed-term tenancy has at least six months on it, your landlord cannot unreasonably withhold their consent.
  • Landlord Breach of a Material Term – A “material term” is something that is so important that even the simplest breach or violation of that term may give the other party the right to end the tenancy.  If your landlord has breached a material term, you should contact them in writing immediately. If your landlord cannot or will not correct the situation, write a second letter notifying them that you are ending your tenancy early for breach of a material term. See TRAC’s template letter, Written Notice for Failure to Comply with a Material Term. Be aware that your landlord may go after you for compensation if they don’t think a material term has been broken. If you are unsure whether you have an acceptable reason to end your tenancy early, you can apply for dispute resolution requesting permission to do so. It may take some time before you get a hearing, but it is a safer option.
  • Family Violence and Long-Term Care – If you are experiencing family violence or need to move into a long-term care facility, you are allowed to end your fixed-term tenancy early by providing one month notice in writing along with written verification from an eligible third-party verifier.  For more information, see TRAC’s webpage on Breaking a Lease.

You have a legal responsibility to follow the terms of your fixed-term tenancy agreement.  If you break your lease, you may have to pay your landlord some money, but it’s not as simple as automatically owing all of the remaining months of rent. This is because of an important legal principle called "mitigation”.

Once your landlord knows that you are breaking your lease, they have a legal responsibility to mitigate, or minimize, your loss by trying to find a new tenant to rent your unit at a fair price.  If your landlord immediately finds a replacement tenant and doesn’t lose any rental income, you may not owe them anything at all.  In other words, your landlord can generally only go after you for money they have actually lost.