Dear Resource Desk: My tenant got a job in another state and wants to terminate their lease early

Posted By: Jalen Charles (deleted) Leasing,
QUESTION: My tenant got a job in another state and wants to terminate their lease early – it doesn’t expire until March 31, 2020. What are my options?

ANSWER: This is a pretty common scenario, and the answer is generally the same for most situations where a tenant is terminating early, regardless of circumstance (although there are some exceptions, such as military orders). If you’ve not written a specific “early termination clause” in to your lease (the RHAWA lease does not specify one), you have four basic options which you could consider.

  1. Follow State Law – RCW 59.18.310, which covers abandonment situations, holds that the tenant is responsible for rent until you find a new renter or the lease term expires, whichever occurs first. Abandonment occurs when the tenant fails to pay rent and by words or actions has vacated the unit. In this situation, you might first consider serving an Abandonment Notice to confirm whether or not the tenant has in fact vacated.

  2. Negotiate terms of an Early Termination Agreement, signed by both parties, which states all stipulations and terms for allowing the tenant out of their obligations to the lease.

  3. Arrange for the current tenant to find a new renter, who you screen, as their replacement to either take over the existing lease terms or sign a new lease term with you. In this situation it’s recommended that you dictate terms of how the unit is advertised, how applicants are screened, etc. RHAWA does not recommend allowing your renter to sublet.

  4. Allow the tenant to move out without penalty. This is probably not the most popular of choices, but, hey, once in a while it might be best for both parties to just move on.

Formal legal advice and review is recommended prior to selection and use of this information. RHAWA does not represent your selection or execution of this information as appropriate for your specific circumstance. The material contained and represented herein, although obtained from reliable sources, is not considered legal advice or to be used as a substitution for legal counsel.