Don’t fear the lease
Many tenants are asked to sign a lease. A lease is a contract in which the tenant agrees to rent a property for a specific length of time. The most common one is for 12 months. If you move out before the end of the term, the landlord can ask you to pay any costs arising from the early termination of the lease. If you do not want to pay additional costs there are options.
What will I pay if I break the lease?
Generally, breaking a lease does not mean that you have to pay the Landlord for the rent for the remaining term. The tenant is only responsible for the time between when they break it, and when the landlord finds a new tenant.
If the landlord re-rents the place for less money than the original tenant was paying, the landlord can ask the original tenant to pay the difference between what they expected and what they are being paid by the new tenant.
Alternatives to breaking a Lease
Many landlords will claim that you cannot sublet your 12-month lease. If your rental term is greater than 6 months, they are wrong. The Residential Tenancy Act says the following:
Assignment and subletting
34 (1) Unless the landlord consents in writing, a tenant must not assign a tenancy agreement or sublet a rental unit.
(2) If a fixed term tenancy agreement is for 6 months or more, the landlord must not unreasonably withhold the consent required under subsection (1).
(3) A landlord must not charge a tenant anything for considering, investigating or consenting to an assignment or sublease under this section
A sublet is where you find a person to replace you as the tenant. You could still be on hook if they do not pay, but it is often a lot better alternative to breaking the lease.
An assignment of a lease occurs when a new tenant completely takes it over. This ends your involvement and you cannot be held liable if they do not pay. Landlords prefer subletting to assignment because it keeps the original tenant on the hook for payment of rent.
A lease is a legal contract which is enforceable if your break it. However, there are many options once you have signed a lease to get out of it. Subletting is the most common, but many people can negotiate with their landlords to cancel them as well.
If you need further advice, contact the Residential Tenancy Branch for assistance.
Michael Butterfield JD
Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator
Certified Family Law Arbitrator