How to terminate your tenancy early

By Realestate Condos Team on February 4th, 2019

Not everyone can predict the future, and sometimes circumstances make it apparent that you, as a tenant, need to move out and/or end your tenancy early.

You might have: found a better deal on a new apartment; gotten a new job out of town; lost your current job; decided to move in with a roommate or partner; decided to separate from your roommate or partner; been called upon to help with a family member's health; etc.

People are complex and their reasons for needing to move can be just as complicated. At the start of your tenancy, you enter into either a written lease or verbal tenancy agreement, which has some standard rules all tenants in Ontario must abide by, along with the landlord. 

Today, we’ll go over a few ways you can end your tenancy early, by the book.

Ways to end the tenancy without a financial penalty

There are a handful of ways you can end a lease early without facing a financial penalty. If you’re able to reach an agreement with your landlord, make sure to get the decision in writing and keep copies for your records.

Your landlord can simply agree to end your tenancy on short notice if you need to leave quickly. If so, both parties should sign the N11 Form from the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), which is the Agreement to Terminate a Tenancy and includes all the important details required by law.   

Or, your landlord may allow you to assign or sublet your unit to a new tenant for the remainder of your lease. You must get your landlord’s consent to assign your unit, and it means your responsibility towards the unit is transferred to the new tenant. If you sublet your place, it means you intend to return to it.

The landlord cannot unreasonably refuse an assignment. If your landlord finds out, for example, that the new tenant has given old landlords problems, this is a justified reason for denying the particular tenant. If your landlord refuses to assign the unit to a worthy tenant, you have a defence for breaking the lease early.

If you don’t hear back from your landlord within 7 days of asking (in writing) to assign the unit, you can issue your landlord the N9 Form, known as the Tenant’s Notice to Terminate the Tenancy. From that point, you can set a tenancy termination date, which can be different than your lease term.

Cost of the remainder of the lease

If your landlord refuses to let you assign the remainder of the lease, you can give 60 days' notice to your landlord or get the Landlord and Tenant Board involved to end your tenancy. Again, they cannot reasonably refuse an assignment.

If, on your end, you’re unable to assign or sublet your unit due to time constraints or similar, you and your landlord can agree to a settlement for the remainder of the lease term.

Usually, your written lease will detail how much the unit costs on a yearly basis, divided into a monthly rent amount. If a tenant defaults on the cost of the lease, and effectively breaks the contract, the landlord or their agents can go after the tenant in court to recover the money owed.

Some landlords may agree, instead, to a forfeiture of your last month’s rent deposit in exchange for terminating the tenancy agreement early, or an alternative sum.

Honesty is the best policy

Not everyone benefits from a pleasant, understanding landlord. If you’re one of the lucky ones, make sure to establish open and honest communication with them. A landlord whom you have a decent rapport with might be more open to ending a tenancy early. They might be happy you scored that dream job and looking forward to renting out the unit again to a new tenant.

Walking away from the unit without attempting to make an agreement can carry some heavy financial and legal consequences, marring your future reputation as a tenant in the process. If the unit is in a state of disrepair without remedy after repeated requests, it may be easier for you to get out of the lease from a legal standpoint.

Always try to talk to your landlord or property manager, and consider either assigning the property or making an agreement to settle for the remainder of the lease before disappearing on anyone.