When a tenant signs a lease, they become legally bound to adhere to all its terms for a specific period of time. Breaking a lease is simply means moving out of the rental property before the lease ends.
Your Woodstock tenant can break their lease early for several reasons. They may need to move out to go take care of their elderly parents or they might be a student moving for school.
It could also be possible that the tenant is a service member who has received deployment letters.
There are many other reasons why a tenant might need to break their lease and it’s important to understand the laws that make this possible.
Landlord’s Rights & Responsibilities when Signing a Lease in Woodstock, GA
The lease gives you certain rights and responsibilities when you sign it.
You have a right to hold a tenant liable for all rent due under the lease, and this is regardless of whether they live in the unit or not.
You also have a right to be served proper notice when a tenant is looking to move out. In Georgia, for a tenant to terminate a monthly lease or an annual lease with no end date, they will need to provide you 30-days notice.
Finally, you have a right to keep part or all of a tenant’s security deposit under certain circumstances. For example, when a tenant moves out of their rented unit without paying rent or clearing their utility bills.
As a Georgia landlord, you are also responsible for certain things under the lease. These responsibilities include ensuring your Woodstock tenants live in a habitable property and that you do not harass your tenant or violate their privacy.
Legally Justifiable Reasons for Woodstock Tenants to End Their Lease
The Unit is Uninhabitable
As a landlord, you must provide your tenant with a property that meets local and state safety and health codes. Fail to do so and you’d be assumed to have “constructively” evicted your tenant by supplying unlivable conditions.
So, make sure you:
- Perform repairs on time
- Provide proper trash receptacles
- Adhere to health and safety codes
- Provide running water
- Keep common areas clean
A tenant would have no further obligation to continue paying rent until the landlord fixes the maintenance issues. The tenant can also simply choose to move out.
Tenant Starts Active Military Duty
Tenants who are starting active military duty are also legally justified to break their lease early.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides special protections to active duty military personnel who have been deployed or received a change of station orders.
The act specifically covers members of the:
- Activated National Guard
- Armed forces
- Commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
The tenant must do three things before they can break the lease as per the act. They must provide:
- Proof that they signed the lease before entering active duty
- Proof that they intend to remain on active duty for at least the next ninety days
- The deployment letter
That being said, the lease isn’t automatically terminate. Once the tenant has delivered the notice, the lease will terminate 30 days after the next rent period begins.
Cases of Domestic Violence
In 2018, Georgia passed a bill allowing for the termination of a lease for victims of domestic violence. For the tenant to qualify for this condition, they must meet certain conditions.
One, the victim must show proof of a criminal or civil family violence order. For example, a 12-month Temporary Protective Order (TPO) or bond conditions showing the abuser isn’t permitted to have any contact with the victim.
Two, they must provide written notice of their intent to move out. They must also accompany the notice with a certified copy of the criminal family violence or applicable civil order.
Similar to Servicemembers under the SCRA act, the lease doesn’t terminate immediately. The earliest the tenant can move out is 30 days after the next rent period begins.
Harassing the Tenant
Your Woodstock tenant can also move out due to landlord harassment. This is where a landlord harasses their tenant with the intent to make them leave. The following are actions that can be deemed as landlord harassment:
- Refusing a rent payment
- Trying to illegally evict the tenant
- Sexually harassing your tenant
- Imposing an illegal rent increase
- Creating unnecessary disturbance
- Failing to perform repairs on time
- Withholding amenities a tenant is entitled to
Privacy violation is also another form of landlord harassment. In some other states, landlords are required to notify their tenants before entering their rented units. In Georgia, however, no law exists in that regard.
That being, tenants still have the right to the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their rented premises. For this reason, most landlords specify the notice period in their lease agreements.
Legally Unjustifiable Reasons for Woodstock Tenants to End Their Lease Early
Some reasons don’t provide enough justification for a tenant to end their lease in Georgia. Such reasons include:
- Moving to be closer to family
- Moving in with a significant other
- Upgrading or downsizing
- Moving because of a new job or school
- Moving into the new home they bought
Landlord’s Duty to Find a New Tenant in Georgia
In some states, landlords must make reasonable efforts to re-rent their units after a tenant breaks their lease. The goal is to help “mitigate damages”. This isn’t, however, the case with Georgia.
Georgia landlords don’t have a responsibility to try and re-rent their vacant property.
As a landlord, you are required to keep track of the property laws and landlord-tenants laws in your state. These laws can change quickly making it difficult to keep track of.
For your own peace of mind, hire a professional property management company like Haas Properties. They’ll be able to stay on top of any changes in legislation and ensure that your rental properties never fall into any legal issues.
Disclaimer: This blog is only intended to be educational and not a substitute for professional legal advice. For further help, please consider reaching out to an experienced property management company.