The whole point of signing a lease agreement with your tenant is to establish how long the residency will last. You expect your tenants to stay in place and continue paying rent for the entire lease term. When they don’t, and they move out early, it’s considered a lease break.
No Las Vegas landlord ever wants to hear that a tenant wants or needs to break the lease and leave the property before the end of the contractual term. It’s disruptive to your cash flow, it requires a lot of extra work on your end, and it leaves you feeling like it’s difficult to trust even well-screened tenants.
But, things happen. Even with good tenants who are otherwise excellent to work with. You need to be prepared for how you’ll handle a lease break. In Nevada, there are some reasons in which a tenant can lawfully break a lease and leave the property early. But even if your tenant is breaking the lease without legal cause, you don’t want to end the relationship with arguments and disputes.
A lease break can be handled professionally and with minimal loss to both landlords and tenants.
Let’s talk about how to hold tenants accountable for the consequences that come with a lease break and what you can do to make the situation a bit better for everyone involved.
Legal Reasons for Lease Breaks in Las Vegas
Your lease agreement should include all the penalties and potential consequences for a broken lease. However, you need to understand that Nevada state law allows for certain situations where a tenant can legally leave without being penalized. These reasons include:
- Moving due to military deployment
When you’re renting to members of the military, you might lose that tenant earlier than you expect. PCS orders can come in at any time, and your tenant might be called for active duty or ordered to a change of station even while they’re in the middle of your lease. This covers tenants who are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard, the Public Health Service, and other government service groups and agencies. The law that permits this is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. They can leave your property without penalty when they receive military orders. However, the tenant is still required to give a 30-day notice. You can ask for the paperwork to support the lease break.
- Domestic violence issues
Nevada will allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or unlawful harassment to break their lease and move out of a property early. They need to demonstrate that staying in the property they’re renting puts their safety at risk.
This isn’t anything to push back about. You don’t want to be held liable for a tenant being injured or harassed just because you wouldn’t let them out of the lease. When your tenant sends you a signed termination of lease letter with this stated reason, you cannot legally collect damages or sue them for a broken lease.
- Privacy issues and violations
You might own the property, but when you rent it out to tenants, that property is their home. You cannot simply show up and demand to go inside whenever you want. Unless there’s an emergency, you must give at least 24 hours of written notice to your tenants before you enter the property.
Notice periods aside, you can’t just show up for no reason. You’ll be required to demonstrate your reasons for being there. Entering a property without notice or permission from your tenant is grounds for a lease break. The tenant will submit a formal written warning and then they’ll be free to break the lease if you do not comply.
Don’t be that landlord. It’s a good way to chase your tenants out of the property.
- Your property is not habitable
You know you’re responsible for providing a safe and habitable residence for your tenants, who pay you rent. If you are letting a lot of maintenance issues go or there are no safety standards being met, your tenant can lawfully leave.
What does an uninhabitable property look like?
- Lack of running water.
- Lack of basic utilities like access to electricity.
- Pests or rodent infestations that go untreated.
- Leaking roofs.
- Missing smoke detectors.
- Doors and windows that do not lock or open and close reliably.
These are some of the reasons a tenant can leave before their lease expires without penalty. If any of these apply to your situation, you’ll want to work with your tenants to establish a move-out date and then work quickly to get the home ready for your next renters.
Good Tenant Communication
When you learn that a tenant is going to break the lease and move out early, you need to keep the lines of communication open. This is important whether the tenant is leaving for a permissible reason that we discussed above, or whether they’re leaving because they’re relocating or divorcing or buying a home. It is extremely important to have an open line of communication with the tenant during this process.
Talk to your tenant about the details of their move so you know how long they expect to be in the property and what they’re willing to do in terms of showings, cleaning, and maintenance. You’ll want a quick turnaround, and your tenants will, too. This is going to require open and responsive communication from both parties.
Don’t take lease breaks personally. You want to keep things professional.
Most landlords and property owners will become nervous and maybe even angry when a tenant notifies them that they’re moving out before the end of the lease term. That’s understandable, but try to remain professional and respectful. This happens, and as long as you work quickly to replace the departing tenant, you don’t necessarily have to lose much money.
Tenant Financial Requirements during Lease Breaks
Typically, when tenants break a lease early, they are required to continue paying the remaining rent for the lease period until the term ends. For a tenant who is leaving one or two months before the end of the lease term, this may be a penalty that’s worth paying. However, residents who are only halfway through their lease term may find these financial responsibilities difficult to meet.
Your departing tenant will certainly want to minimize what they owe you, and they’ll be willing to work with you to get a new tenant placed quickly. This is to the benefit of everyone involved.
Good residents know they can minimize what they’ll have to pay by providing as much notice as possible and documenting the reason for leaving early. Your tenants can also save themselves and you some money by ensuring the home is available to show prospective new tenants. This will help get it rented faster.
Work together as best you can with your tenants who need to move.
Nevada Legal Requirements to Mitigate Vacancy Length
Nevada law requires you to take every reasonable step to fill the vacancy with a qualified tenant as soon as possible. You can’t sit back and expect your departing tenant to continue paying rent on a property that is vacant and not being made available to new tenants.
You need to move quickly to find a new tenant, but you are not required to rent the home for less than its fair market value. Attach a reasonable rental price to your property and look for qualified tenants who can afford the rent.
The market is favorable to landlords right now, and you should not have trouble finding a new tenant if your current resident breaks the lease. That lets your departing tenant off the hook pretty quickly and it also means that you’re not at risk for long vacancies and disrupted rent.
You can require your departing tenant to pay advertising and marketing costs.
Give your tenants the opportunity to suggest a new tenant who can take their place until the end of the lease so you don’t have a vacancy. If someone takes over the current tenant’s lease, you can still collect the same rental amount until that lease period ends. Your tenant might have someone in mind already, or maybe together you can advertise for a resident who is interested in finishing out the lease term.
Ideally, you’ll find a new long-term tenant who can move in without delay. Get your marketing plans in place right away and make sure there are only a few days of turnover between the time your current tenant leaves and a new tenant moves in.
You can be as strict or as accommodating as you want to be. You don’t have to collect from your tenant if they break their lease early. When a new tenant is quickly found and there isn’t much vacancy between the two tenants, you might just want to let things go. But, if the vacancy drags on and you have trouble finding a qualified tenant, you’re within your rights to bill the former tenant for rent.
Much of this will depend on your relationship with your tenant and the systems you have in place to get the property rented quickly.
Working with a Las Vegas property management company can help you avoid the risk and the expense that often comes with a lease break. We’d love to talk with you more about how we handle such situations. Please contact us at Strawberry Property Management Las Vegas.