5.4 Alternatives to Breaking a Lease

Breaking a lease should be viewed as a last resort. A tenant should consider the following alternatives before illegally ending a fixed term tenancy agreement:

  • Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy
  • Sublet or Assignment
  • Breach of Material Term
  • Family Violence and Long-Term Care


Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy

Your landlord may simply agree to end your tenancy early. To persuade them, you can offer to help find a replacement tenant by advertising your rental unit, making it accessible for regular viewings, and otherwise cooperating with your landlord. You can use Residential Tenancy Branch form, Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy, if your landlord agrees to end your tenancy early.


Sublet or Assignment

You might be able to sublet or assign your fixed term tenancy agreement. A sublet occurs when a tenant temporarily moves out and rents their unit to a subtenant until they return, whereas an assignment occurs when a tenant permanently moves out and transfers their agreement to a new tenant. 

To sublet or assign your tenancy agreement, you must have your landlord’s written permission. However, if your fixed term tenancy agreement has at least six months remaining, your landlord cannot unreasonably deny your request. If your landlord is being unreasonable, you can apply for dispute resolution through the Residential Tenancy Branch to request an order allowing you to sublet or assign your tenancy.

These rules about sublet and assignment apply to most types of rental housing, but there is one exception. A landlord can refuse a tenant the right to sublet or assign their unit if the tenant lives in non-profit housing that falls under section 2 of the Residential Tenancy Regulation, and their rent is also related to their income.



Breach of Material Term

The Residential Tenancy Act allows a tenant to end their tenancy early when “a landlord has failed to comply with a material term of the tenancy agreement and has not corrected the situation within a reasonable period after the tenant gives written notice of the failure.” 

If you decide to end your tenancy for breach of material term, your landlord might claim that you ended your tenancy illegally. To protect yourself, try to gather clear and relevant evidence of the issue that forced you to move out. If your landlord applies for dispute resolution seeking monetary compensation, that evidence will help you convince an arbitrator that you had no other choice but to break your lease.


Family Violence and Long-Term Care 

A tenant can end a fixed term tenancy early by providing one month written notice if they:

  • need to leave their rental unit to protect themselves or their children from family violence;
  • have been assessed as requiring long-term care; or
  • have been accepted into a long-term care facility.

To legally end a tenancy in these circumstances, you must provide your landlord with an approved form, Ending Fixed Term Tenancy Confirmation Statement, signed by an authorized third-party verifier. Here are the most common examples of third-party verifiers:

Family Violence Long-Term Care
medical practitioner medical practitioner
nurse practitioner  nurse practitioner
psychologist psychologist
social worker social worker
police officer manager of a long-term care facility
counsellor occupational therapist
practicing lawyer  
victim court support caseworker