Although you place a tenant with the hopes that they will remain in your property for the full term, many factors can change that destiny. The tenants may have decided to buy their own home. Maybe a new job will take them to a new location. Their family situation might change. Or there could be many other reasons. (If they are a member of the military, remember that servicemembers have special protections allowing them to leave a rental agreement without a penalty.) No matter the reason, knowing that a tenant plans to leave can be frustrating and emotional. It is important to keep these things in mind:
- It is not personal As you know, being a landlord is a business. You have to protect your property and your own interests. Make sure you are considering your investment as you move through this process, even when you need to make a painful or difficult decision. Naturally, the tenant is considering his or her own situation as well.
- If it is not in writing it doesn’t count It can be frustrating when tenants tell you one thing and then end up doing another. When all is said and done, the only promises that matter at the ones that are in writing. Leave any empty promises behind and address the current situation.
- Stand your ground Take a look at your lease to see what recourse you have when a tenant wants to break a lease. Is there wording in your lease that allows for this scenario (for example, they may qualify under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA). What kind of notice is required by your lease or local laws?
As always, don’t forget to look at the situation and see if there is a way to make it be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes a tenant breaking a lease is a good thing. For example, perhaps you were interested in selling the house and getting rid of that rental unit. Or perhaps your rental was priced under market and you wanted to increase the price but were unable or unwilling to do so with the current tenants.
It’s never ideal when a tenant wants to leave, but if you have a plan to keep it from getting personal, keep it in writing, and stick to your rights, you should be able to weather this inconvenience.