Do Landlords Have to Provide a Reason for Terminating a Rental Agreement?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Landlords and tenants are both legally obligated to honor the specific terms of a rental contract, nothing more and nothing less. With a few notable exceptions, landlords are not required to provide a reason for terminating a rental agreement at the end of the contract. It might be in the landlord's best interest to provide a reason for termination during the time period covered by the lease, however. Ending a rental agreement is not the same as formal eviction proceedings in the eyes of the law.

A 30-day notice is usually posted on a rental unit's door.
A 30-day notice is usually posted on a rental unit's door.

When a landlord offers a rental contract to a new tenant, all of the conditions and rules should be spelled out clearly. This agreement should include specific language concerning terminations, renewals, subletting, and proper notice of changes. Some rental agreements and leases require landlords to provide a reason for termination, but many do not. The tenant may assume that the lease will be automatically renewed after the original one expires, but such renewal is often at the discretion of the landlord. At this point, a landlord can decline to offer a new rental agreement without providing a reason to the tenant, at least under most landlord/tenant laws.

A landlord must honor the terms outlined in the rental agreement.
A landlord must honor the terms outlined in the rental agreement.

One notable exception is in the case of public housing rental assistance, such as Section 8 funding provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in the US. Landlords who accept rental subsidies from HUD cannot terminate a rental agreement without providing a legal reason for doing so. The landlord can claim that a tenant has violated specific terms of the lease, such as through failure to pay rent on time, destruction of property, or allowing illegal activity to occur on the property. Terminating a lease can occur with or without a legal eviction proceeding. Eviction involves a lengthy court process, but terminating a rental agreement is often a private contract matter.

Many leases and rental agreements provide legal conditions for early termination.
Many leases and rental agreements provide legal conditions for early termination.

Landlords cannot physically remove a tenant from the rented property until an official eviction notice has been served. This rule may appear to favor the tenant, but there is still the matter of a lease. Under a number of landlord/tenant laws, a landlord only has to provide a 30-day notice before terminating a rental contract. An undesirable tenant facing court-ordered eviction cannot enjoy the benefits of the agreement after that time has elapsed. The landlord may have to provide a reason for eviction in court proceedings, but he or she is not contractually obligated to provide a reason for a lease termination.

Landlords cannot physically remove a tenant from the rented property until an official eviction notice has been served.
Landlords cannot physically remove a tenant from the rented property until an official eviction notice has been served.

Many leases and rental agreements provide legal conditions for early termination, including relocation for work purposes or military duty. If an unscrupulous landlord deliberately fails to make repairs or provide a safe living environment, the tenant can legally move out of the premises and refuse to honor the remainder of the contract. This is called constructive eviction during any civil law action taken against the landlord. The landlord also cannot coerce a tenant into early termination of a lease through retaliatory or discriminatory actions.

Landlords cannot physically remove a tenant from a rental property until an eviction notice has been served.
Landlords cannot physically remove a tenant from a rental property until an eviction notice has been served.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


I've rented a apartment in Texas for the last two years and five months with two lease renewals. My landlord posted a written offer to renew the lease for a specific price, (with my name on it) and gave me a date to respond by. Now, nearly a month before that date, I was giving notice to vacate. I'm up to date on all payments (rent, utilities, etc.) and have never missed or even been late on a payment. When I asked why, I was told that there was no reason. They just didn't find me an acceptable tenant.

Does my landlord have to honor the offer made until the date or can they rescind it and refuse to say why? If they can't does anyone know what kind of legal options I can pursue? They are leaving me fewer than 25 business days to vacate.


@anon111976: I'm not a rental law expert myself, but I'd suggest looking over the rental contract very carefully to see if you can exercise an option to terminate the lease legally. It might be buried way down in the contract, but something might be there about early termination. If not, you may just have to let things ride until the last month of the lease is up, then inform the tenants you won't be renewing it. It's not uncommon for some tenants to violate a few rules in the lease, mostly because they believe the landlord lives too far away and isn't in the spying business.

Legal eviction is a lengthy process, and one that could stir up more conflict than you want. As long as what the tenants are doing qualifies more as annoying than damaging, you might just have to hold your tongue, let the lease play out and then scrutinize any future tenants a little harder. Every landlord makes at least one mistake when it comes to judging their tenants, so try not to beat yourself up over it.


Can a landlord offer in writing to renew a lease, and then rescind that offer weeks after having that offer accepted (also in writing) but prior to actually signing the lease?


I am just wondering if I have a lease that allows horses and the property is not fenced, can I get evicted for putting up a fence? My landlord originally said I could but has now changed her mind and says I have to remove the fence that is keeping my horses in.


Most leases have sections which deal with security, sanitation and privacy issues. In the case of a flimsy patio door, the tenant could point out that the lease says the landlord agrees to provide housing that is safe and secure. This is almost always a matter of dispute between tenants and landlords, because some landlords only feel obligated to meet that condition by putting a cheap padlock on a door or minimal chaining around a fence. Some tenants may feel the landlord owes them a state-of-the-art video monitoring system and a top-end electronic alarm. The reality is that sometimes tenants have to take matters into their own hands if something becomes a serious security or sanitation threat. It can sometimes be better to seek forgiveness instead of permission.

As a tenant, all you can really do is make sure the matter has been brought to the attention of the landlord. Record the time and date you approached the landlord or his/her representative. Describe the problem in detail. Record any follow-up meetings as they occur, or make note of any promised work dates not kept.

@Anon50254: The way I see it (not a legal expert), the landlord really can't say much if you don't sign a new year-long lease. You're always free to leave the property as long as you provide the proper notice, which I assume on a month-to-month lease would be 30 days. Signing the landlord's new lease would obligate you to a year of residency, although you might be able to argue that some of the addendums violate common civil rights. A landlord can include all sorts of conditions in a lease, but he cannot override the existing laws of the land.

It's up to you if you want to continue to live on that property or not, but you need to consider if the landlord's addendums are truly that unworkable. He might be looking out for your best interests, albeit in an oddly intrusive kind of way.


I recently moved into a house condo. The landlords will not change the patio door that serves as a back door from the patio. The door is a cheap flimsy door that anyone can push in and come in the house. Also, at night it keeps the kitchen and living room cold because the cold air comes in through the bottom of this door. What can I say to them to fix it?


I am planning on terminating the rental contract with my tenant two months before the lease is up because of non payment of rent. Can I get an eviction notice after the 30 days period has elapsed?


I live in CA and just rented out my first rental property. My tenants just moved in two weeks ago.

Our contract clearly stated that no pets allowed and no smoking allowed, however, they are totally ignoring it.

I have some other minor rent issues with them. I feel that they are going to be nothing but trouble so I would like them to move out and cancel the lease agreement. I do not want to have to evict the tenants unless I have no other choices. What are my options?


If the Section 8 tenant does not give notice to the Landlord, but does give notice to the Housing Authority, are they legally permitted to end their lease early?


When I first moved into this unit, my lease was for six months and then after that it went to month to month. I've lived here going on two years now. My landlord has drawn up a year lease with a lot of addendums in the lease, like he is my social worker and I cannot get help from my placement officer to see that he is ridiculous. I believe they are working together. So I would like to know what can my landlord do if I refuse to sign this bad lease with all of those addendums he put in? Can he evict me for not signing or can I suggest that I stay on a month to month lease? I will soon be leaving his property real soon to try to buy to own through the program. Should I let this also be known?


Landlord has no legal obligation to provide tenant with a reason for non-renewal of lease (Landlord is not terminating lease, they are choosing not to renew)


With that said, can the tenant demand a reason for the termination? If the landlord refuses to give a reason, can the tenant pursue legal remedies. In my case, I want to get rid of a problem tenant and possibly pursue either a lease/purchaser or a section 8 tenant. The tenant pays on time but is constantly demanding upgrades, repairs that far exceed what they pay in rent. I have had problems in the past with rent. I am trying to make a clean start with a new tenant.

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