Real Estate Terms

Lease Violation Definition

A lease violation occurs when a tenant or landlord breaks the terms of a lease agreement.

Real estate professionals must understand how lease violations work in the rental industry. To fully grasp this concept, we recommend learning from trusted experts with years of experience. Luckily, we have the expertise necessary to guide you through lease violations and how they affect landlords and renters.

In this post, we’ll define lease violations, give examples of different types, and explain what happens when someone breaks a lease agreement. Keep reading for a full breakdown of this important term!

What Is a Lease?

A lease is a contract where a landlord rents their property to a tenant in exchange for payments. A lease agreement is legally binding, which means landlords and tenants must abide by the terms of the contract.

If a tenant fails to follow the lease terms, their landlord could pursue legal action and start the eviction process.

What Terms Are Covered In a Lease?

According to LegalZoom, a standard lease agreement covers the following terms:

  • Name of the property owner and tenants living on the property
  • Property address and description
  • The term of the tenancy
  • Rent (amount, payment schedule, etc.)
  • Included utilities (gas, heat, electric, etc.)
  • Pet restrictions
  • Landlord’s access to the property for inspection, repairs, and maintenance issues
  • Restrictions on illegal activity
  • Responsibility for damaged property

Landlords must ensure that the terms of their contract are reasonable, or they could face legal liability.

What Is a Lease Violation?

A lease violation is when a landlord or tenant violates the terms of their lease agreement. Put simply, a lease violation is a breach of contract.

Landlord-tenant laws require that property owners and tenants follow all terms outlined in their rental agreement. If either party fails to uphold the terms of this legal document, it is considered a breach of contract. This could result in hefty fees, lawsuits, damaged credit, and property eviction. 

Examples of Common Lease Violations by Tenants

Examples of tenant lease violations would be constant late payments, secretly having long-term guests, damaging property, and more. Let’s go through some specific examples.

Regularly Late Payments

A tenant who regularly fails to pay rent on time violates their lease agreement. This is one of the most common examples of a lease violation. One late rent payment can be overlooked, but regular late payments may prompt the landlord to start the eviction process.

Long-Term Guests

In most cases, tenants are allowed to invite guests over to their rental property. However, when a guest stays for an extended period of time, the line between “guest” and “tenant” starts to blur.

In most lease agreements, the tenant must list everyone who lives in the rental unit. If a guest lives there for months, they may technically be considered a tenant. Because they are not listed in the lease agreement, this is considered a lease violation.

Property Damage

Most lease agreements require that the tenant keep the leased property in decent condition. If a tenant inflicts serious damage to the rental property, the landlord may consider this a lease violation.  

Unauthorized Pets

Most landlords include a pet policy in their lease agreements. Some forbid all pets from living in a rental unit, while others have size and weight restrictions.

The purpose of these rules is to avoid property damage and/or ensure that all tenants in the building feel comfortable. If a tenant secretly houses a pet in their leased property, this would be an example of a lease violation.

Noise Violations

Some tenants commit noise violations when they are consistently being too loud. Many rental agreements specify quiet hours where tenants have to keep the noise levels to a minimum. Tenants who make excessive noise during these hours violate the terms of their rental agreement.

Illegal Activity

If a tenant commits an illegal act in the rental property, the landlord may consider it a serious lease violation. For example, a lease agreement might state that tenants cannot bring illegal drugs into the rental unit. If a tenant does so anyway, they have violated the terms of the agreement.

Example of Common Lease Violations by Landlords

Examples of landlord lease violations would be entering the property unannounced, failing to maintain the property, and refusing to give back the security deposit. Let’s look at some examples below.

Entering the Property Unannounced

Landlords cannot enter a leased property without giving their tenants reasonable notice. This rule ensures that the residents of a rented space have privacy.

Failing to Maintain the Property

In most cases, landlords are responsible for property maintenance. If a tenant requests repairs and the landlord fails to fix the issue, this is an example of a lease violation.

Refusing to Return the Security Deposit

A tenant who pays rent on time and keeps the property in good condition should get their security deposit back at the end of the lease. If the property owner refuses to give back the security deposit, they have violated the lease terms.

How to Handle a Lease Violation

Landlords and tenants must know what to do in the case of a lease violation. Let’s discuss the steps that each party can take to ensure the other follows the lease terms.

For Landlords

When a tenant breaks their lease, the landlord can take the following actions until the issue is resolved:

  • Get familiar with state laws
  • Keep a record of the violations
  • Write the tenant a lease violation warning letter
  • Send a “Pay or Quit” notice if the tenant will not pay rent
  • Begin eviction proceedings

However, a landlord cannot implement a self-help eviction. A self-help eviction is when a landlord evicts a tenant without going through the proper legal proceedings. For example, if a landlord changes the tenant’s locks or turns off their heat without court involvement, they have violated the law.

For Tenants

When a landlord commits a lease violation, the tenant can take the following steps:

  • Get familiar with state laws
  • Document the incident
  • Notify the landlord of the issue
  • Go to a mediator for help
  • Report the landlord to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • Take the landlord to court

What Is a Lease Violation Notice?

A lease violation notice is a document a landlord writes to a tenant to warn them that they have violated the lease. Another name for this type of notice is a lease violation letter.

How to Write a Lease Violation Letter

A lease violation letter should politely but formally warn the tenant to stop breaking lease terms. This type of letter should include the following details:

  • The property address
  • The name of the tenant
  • The lease violation
  • The time and date of the lease violation
  • The deadline that the tenant has to correct the violation by
  • The consequences that the tenant will face if they do not resolve the violation

How to Respond to a Lease Violation Letter

If a tenant has violated their lease, they should write a letter back to the landlord explaining that they will resolve the problem. Then, the tenant must fix the issue and be careful not to commit this violation again.

However, if a tenant feels they have been wrongly accused of breaking the lease, they should reply to the landlord and let them know. If the landlord disagrees, they will likely take the issue to court. In this case, the tenant must prepare a defense.

How Does the Eviction Process Work?

If a tenant is found guilty of violating a lease, the landlord may continue with eviction proceedings. The process for eviction generally looks like this:

  1. The landlord will issue a notice
  2. The tenant must comply with the lease or leave the property
  3. The courts will decide how to escort the tenant from the property
  4. The tenant and their belongings will be removed from the property
  5. The landlord will start preparing for new tenants

How Long Does an Eviction Take?

Evicting a tenant can be a time-consuming process for landlords. An eviction may take weeks or months, depending on the reason for eviction and whether or not the tenant complies.

In most states, the eviction process begins several days after the notice is served. This time frame gives the tenants a few days to correct their behavior or contest the eviction.

When Can a Tenant Break Their Lease?

While tenants are generally required to follow the terms of their rental agreement, there are a few instances where they can legally break a lease.

Examples include:

  • If the rented property is inhabitable
  • If the landlord is harassing the tenant
  • If the rented space is illegal
  • If the tenant is an active-duty military member
  • If the tenant is a victim of domestic abuse

What to Know Before the Real Estate Exam

A lease violation occurs when a landlord or tenant breaks the terms of their contractual agreement.

Before taking the exam, real estate students must know how lease violations work. Not only will this show up on the test, but it will be necessary for real estate agents who deal with rental properties to know.

Of course, this is only one of the vital topics you’ll need to learn to become a real estate pro. Check out other crucial terms using our online Real Estate Flashcards!

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