As a landlord in California, it’s crucial to know the laws when it comes to breaking a lease.

In this article, we’ll discuss both justified and unjustified reasons for the early termination of a rental lease. This way, you’ll know your rights, as well as the rights of your renters.

Rental Agreement in California

Prior to leasing to any tenant, you should first create a clear rental agreement. As a landlord, it’s your duty to ensure that tenants understand all the terms and provisions stated in the lease.

A tenant must be made aware of the possible penalties for unlawfully breaking a lease. Tenants should also be aware of their rights to justifiably break a lease.

Your lease should indicate how many days notice a tenant must provide you when breaking their lease in the state of California.

A tenant should provide 7 days notice if they rent on a week-to-week basis. If the tenant is renting on a month-to-month basis, they should provide 30 days notice to break their lease. For leases with fixed-end dates, tenants are not required to provide notice to the landlord.

The lease should also mention your right as a landlord to re-rent the rental property. According to California state law, landlords are required to take reasonable steps to re-rent the rental home when a tenant breaks a lease.

The tenant who broke the lease will only be responsible for paying the remaining rent during the period the property is not yet re-rented.


Landlords must also include the tenant’s right to sublet the rental unit in the lease agreement. In California, tenants may have the right to sublet the rental unit as long as the lease does not prohibit them from doing so.

Tenants may have to obtain a landlord’s approval prior to subletting the unit. To do so, they must send a letter of request through certified mail. The letter should include the sublet term, the name of the proposed subtenant, written consent from any co-tenants, and a copy of the proposed sublease.

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in California

Tenants who unjustifiably break the lease in California are subject to certain fees and security deposit charges. They may also be required to continue to pay rent until the original lease term ends.

Tenants who unjustifiably break their lease will have no legal protection against the possibility of eviction for doing so. The reasons below are unjustified reasons to break a lease:

  • The tenant bought a house
  • The tenant must relocate for a new job or school
  • They’re upgrading, downgrading, or changing lifestyle
  • They’re moving in with a partner
  • They’re moving to be closer to family


Breaking a lease for any of these reasons, without approval of the court, can have consequences for tenants. Tenants may ask the landlord to agree to a mutual termination if they need to break a lease for any of the above reasons.

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in California

Landlords should be aware of the justified reasons that allow a tenant to break a lease before the term ends. If a tenant breaks their lease due to any of the following reasons, they may be protected against certain consequences and penalties:

Early Lease Termination Clause

Some landlords may allow the tenant to break a lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. The early termination clause should indicate the amount of the penalty, how much notice is required, and other conditions that need to be met.

Active Military Duty

If a tenant enters active military duty during the term of their tenancy, they may be allowed to break the lease early due to deployment or permanent change of station. This protection is valid for 60 to 90 days from the date the tenant enters military duty.

To be eligible, the tenant must show proof that they entered active duty after the lease was signed. They must also provide a copy of the orders to deploy or the permanent change of station.

Uninhabitable Unit

As a landlord, you must be aware of the habitability standards required by California law. As a landlord, you must be familiar with the landlord tenant law and your responsibilities for providing a habitable space for your tenants, as well as addressing any repair issues within a reasonable timeframe.


If habitability standards aren’t met, the tenant has the right to break the lease early. The tenant will no longer be obligated to pay rent for the remaining lease term.

Domestic Violence

Under California landlord tenant law, victims of domestic violence are provided with special rental provisions. Tenants who are victims of domestic violence have the right to terminate the lease early as long as certain conditions are met (including securing a temporary restraining order).

This protection is also applicable to those who are victims of sexual abuse, elder abuse, and stalking.

Other Reasons

Tenants may also be allowed to break the lease before the lease term ends due to several other reasons, including the following:

  • The landlord violates any provisions in the lease agreement
  • The landlord failed to disclose any mandatory disclosure in the lease agreement
  • The landlord repeatedly violates the tenants’ rights to privacy by entering the premises without prior notice in a non-emergency case
  • The landlord changed the locks to the property without the tenant’s permission
  • The lease is deemed illegal and unenforceable
  • The tenant has a qualified disability, is a senior citizen, or has age and health-related issues that require them to move out for medical reasons


Now that you know the rules and regulations regarding lease termination in California, it’s important to abide by the law to avoid any problems in the future. It’s best to hire a professional property manager that can ensure the best management of your property! Call JTS Property Management today at 916-534-7642!

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.