How to Break a Lease in VA the Easy Way

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How to Break a Lease in VA Without Penalty

Like many tenants who sign a lease, you probably planned to stay for the total amount of time specified in the lease, but despite your intentions, things happen that force you to end your tenancy. Now, you're wondering without attracting hefty fines and penalties.

Landlords don't make it easy to end a lease, and any slight mistake could leave a dent in your bank balance. The law may protect you against fines if you're starting active military duty, a victim of domestic violence, or the unit is unsafe. However, there are many other reasons to break the lease which aren't covered by the law, like buying a house, getting married, or relocating for work.

You'll need to double-check your lease to understand the laws about breaking a lease. Once you do, you can reach out to your landlord and inform them about your intentions to leave the property before the lease ends. Depending on your landlord, this can be a smooth process or turn out to be litigious. Learn how to break a lease in VA with the least possible damage—or even without any penalties.

Tenant's Responsibilities When Signing a Lease in Virginia

A lease is legally binding and obligates you and the landlord for a specified duration. Under a typical lease, tenants are bound to pay rent for the entire lease term, often a year. This is irrespective of whether you move out or stay in the unit.

The landlord can't force you to move out during this time unless you violate a significant term or fail to pay rent. In which case, the Virginia Code Ann. §§ 55.1-1245, 55.1-1250 (2020) mandates the landlord to provide a five days' notice to pay rent or leave.

Other than paying rent on time, you must:

  • Remove trash and garbage
  • Abide by cleanliness standards
  • Keep the house in a hazard-free and safe state
  • Not disturb neighbors and other tenants

When Breaking a Lease Is Justified in Virginia

Breaking a lease often attracts penalties and fines. However, there are exceptions to the rule. You can break a lease legally when:

  1. Your landlord harasses you or violates your privacy rights: Virginia state laws obligate the landlord to provide 24 hours notice to enter your unit for maintenance. However, the landlord doesn't have to issue any notice if you ask for maintenance. Suppose your landlord continuously violates your privacy rights or does things like changing locks, removing doors or windows, or switching off your utilities. In that case, you'd be considered "constructively evicted" and not have to pay any penalties.
  2. You're starting active military duty: The War and National Defense Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, 50 App. U.S.C. §§ 501 protects members of the uniformed service against penalties that come with breaking a lease for military reasons.
  3. You're a victim of domestic violence: VA laws allow tenants to break a lease if they're victims of sexual or family abuse, as long as specific conditions are met, like the tenant getting a protection order.
  4. The apartment is unsafe or violates VA health or safety codes: If the landlord supplies unlivable housing. A court would probably rule out that you've been "constructively evicted." When your landlord doesn't provide habitable housing, you can issue a written notice of the breach and provide enough time to correct the breach. If the landlord fails to correct the problem, you can recover the rest of your rental money or be given substitute housing for the breach period. You also won't pay rent.

What if You Don’t Have a Legal Basis?

In cases where you don't have a legal basis but still need to end the lease, like divorce, job loss, transfer, you could:

  • Appeal to the landlord and request a favorable arrangement.
  • If the landlord is not sympathetic, Virginia laws need that they make "reasonable efforts" to rent out the unit after you end the lease. This makes you only responsible for the time that the property went unfilled.

Lease Termination Notice Requirements in Virginia

If you have a periodic lease, you must provide the following notice times when you wish to break your lease:

Rent PaymentNotice TimeStatute
Week-to-week30 days§ 55.1-1308
Month-to-month3 months§ 55.1-1308
Year-to-yearNo statuteNo statute

What Are the Consequences of Illegally Breaking a Lease?

Moving out without telling your landlord can attract a series of consequences, including:

  • Your landlord could sue you for rent owed as well as breach of contract and damages.
  • You could have an eviction on your record, which reflects poorly on your future landlords. In the end, you could have a hard time finding a new apartment due to poor credit and/or eviction.
  • Judgments and eviction can affect your credit score negatively and prevent you from accessing loans.

How to Break the Virginia Lease on Your Own

Depending on your specific situation, you can try one of these different approaches to by yourself:

  1. You may have the right to break the lease if the landlord enters your home illegally, continues to try to enter your unit without proper notice, or harasses you, Va. Code Ann. §§ 55.1-1229, 55.1-1249 (2020). In which case, you'll need to get a court order to stop the landlord from the behavior. If they still carry on, you can provide notice that you'll break the lease.
  2. You can also break your lease after a domestic violence incident, provided specific conditions are met, Va. Code Ann. §§ 55.1-1208, 55.1-1236, 55.1-1230 (2020). You'll need to issue the landlord written notice of your desire to end the lease because of domestic violence. But you should provide this lease at least 30 days before the desired termination date. At this point, you'll only be liable for paying rent to the lease termination date.
  3. If you're a service member who needs to relocate, you'll need to issue a written notice to the landlord stating the need to break the lease. The notice should be 30 days before the desired termination date. It should also include proof, like a copy of military deployment or change of station, Va. Stat. Ann. § 55.1-1235 (2020). The termination date shouldn't be more than 60 days before departure.
  4. If none of those cases apply to you, you can try talking to your landlord about your situation, looking for an early termination clause in your lease, or sending your landlord a demand letter to break your lease with minimal penalty.

Break the Lease With the Help of DoNotPay

You don't have to struggle with the lease alone. DoNotPay can help you break your lease in VA without penalties or with minimum losses. Through our Break My Lease product, we'll write to your landlord and demand that you be allowed to break your lease under any state law applicable to your case. In cases where you aren't protected under the state's laws, we'll write a letter and request your landlord for leniency in breaking the lease.

All you have to do is:

  1. Search Break My Lease on DoNotPay.

  2. Prepare a signed copy of your lease that you can use as a reference and enter the state the lease was signed in.

  3. Let us guide you through the 4 potential options.

How DoNotPay Helps

Depending on your situation, DoNotPay can help:

  1. File an SCRA Protection Letter: If you're a uniformed service member breaking a lease to fulfill your service obligations, we'll send your landlord an SCRA Protection Letter.
  2. File a state Tenant Law Protection Letter: If you're breaking your lease for a reason protected by your state's tenant laws, we'll write your landlord a letter detailing your protections for breaking the lease under the relevant law.
  3. Send a Hardship Letter: If your reasons for breaking your lease aren't protected by federal or state law, but you'd like to try to convince your landlord to let you break the lease through mutual agreement, we'll draft a hardship letter making your case to your landlord.
  4. Notify the Landlord of the Requirements to Mitigate Damages: If there are no remaining options for breaking the lease with protection, but your state requires landlords to mitigate damages to tenants who break their leases, we'll notify your landlord of that obligation and minimize the remaining rent you have to pay.

Why Use DoNotPay to Break a Lease in VA

DoNotPay takes the stress out of the process of breaking a lease in VA because we write the demand letter for you. With our Break My Lease product, it is easy and fast to end your tenancy with minimum damages or even no penalty at all. With our expert help, you can rest easy knowing the process will be successful.

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