Breaking a Lease

When you sign a lease you are entering into a legally binding contract

Basically when entering into a rental lease you agree to pay a set amount of rent per month generally for a specific time period such as a year.  There are number things to understand if you decide to or need to break your lease. Tenants are legally bound to pay rent for the full lease term, typically one year, whether or not you continue to live in the rental unit—with some exceptions, as follows.

You are called to Active Military Duty

If you are called to enter active military service after signing a lease, you have a right to break the lease under federal law. You must give your landlord written notice of your intent to terminate your tenancy for military reasons. Once the notice is mailed or delivered, your tenancy will terminate 30 days after the date that rent is next due, even if that date is several months before your lease expires.

You are a Victim of Domestic Violence of Legitimate Fear of Harm

State law provides early termination rights for tenants who are victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or stalking (or who have reasonable fears of imminent physical harm), provided that specified conditions are met (such as the tenant securing a valid protection order).

The Rental Unit Is Unsafe or Violates Massachusetts Health or Safety Codes

If your landlord does not provide habitable housing under local and state housing codes, a court would probably conclude that you have been “constructively evicted;” this means that the landlord, by failing to supply livable housing, has for all practical purposes “evicted” you, so you may no further responsibility for the rent. The problem must be truly severe, such as the lack of heat, water or other essential service.

Your Landlord Harasses You or Violates Your Privacy Rights

Massachusetts state law does not specify how much notice your landlord must give you to enter rental property. If your landlord repeatedly violates your rights to privacy, or does things like removing windows or doors, turning off your utilities, or changing the locks, you would be considered “constructively evicted,” as described above; this may justify breaking the lease without further rent obligation.

There are situations where reasonable people can come to a satisfactory agreement, such as finding suitable renters to replace you or by paying a fee to break the lease and staying until the landlord is able to find new renters.

You can fill out a contact form at​ Law Offices of Lipsey & Clifford​ if you have questions or need legal advice.

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