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 legally 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 renters 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 in California. Renters should also be aware of their rights to justifiably break a lease.

Your lease should indicate how many days in advance a tenant should provide written notice notice when breaking their California lease agreement.

A tenant should provide 7 days notice if they pay 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 a fixed term lease, tenants are not required to provide the landlord notice.

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

The tenant who broke the lease will only have further responsibility to continue rent payments while the unit is not yet re-rented to a suitable new tenant.


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 permission 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 break their lease in California without legal justification are subject to certain fees and security deposit charges, meaning funds may be taken from the security deposit by the landlord to make up for unpaid rent. They may also be required to continue to pay rent until the original lease 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 early 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 early termination if they need to break their 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 end their tenancy before the lease expires. If a tenant breaks their lease due to any of the following reasons, they may be protected against certain consequences and penalties:

Early Termination Clause

Some landlords may allow the tenant to break their lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. The early lease 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

According to California rental law, 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 change of station.

Uninhabitable Unit

California law requires landlords to keep their units livable. You must be familiar with the landlord tenant law and a landlord's duty to provide a habitable space for their 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 to vacate the illegal unit. The tenant will have no further rent obligation, meaning they won't have to pay the lease's unpaid rent for the entire lease term.

Domestic Violence

Under California landlord tenant law, victims of domestic violence are provided with special rental provisions. Tenants who are a victim of domestic violence-- or have an immediate family member who is-- have the right to legally 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 agreement
  • The landlord fails to disclose any mandatory disclosure in the 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 request or 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 early 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 if you're seeking assistance with your property!

Disclaimer: This blog does not constitute legal advice from a qualified 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.