Can a tenant or a landlord terminate a tenancy at any time without a reason?

The answer depends on the type of tenancy.  Periodic tenancies generally can be terminated by giving proper notice at any time without cause, but those that involve rent subsidy programs or that are in certain cities might still require a cause (for these contact an FHCOC counselor).  If the tenancy is a fixed term lease it usually requires a cause to terminate during the fixed term.  A fixed term lease doesn’t necessarily renew; renewal will depend on the terms of the lease and the actions of the parties.

Month-to-Month and Other Periodic Agreements

A tenant may terminate a periodic tenancy with a notice equal to the rental period, not to exceed 30 days.  This means a 30-day notice for month-to-month or a longer period, a 7-day notice for week-to-week, etc.  A landlord must give at least a 30-day notice to terminate a periodic tenancy if the tenant has lived in the unit for less than a year or a 60 day notice if the tenant has lived in the unit for more than a year.

Neither the landlord nor the tenant has to give or have a reason for terminating a periodic tenancy. This means that the landlord may, for no reason, give the tenant a notice to terminate tenancy.  The landlord may not give a notice to terminate the tenancy for an illegal reason, such as retaliation or discrimination. Tenants who have been retaliated or discriminated against may be able to sue the landlord for damages.

A landlord may threaten to or actually terminate a tenancy with a 3-day notice if the tenant violates their obligations under a rental agreement.  The landlord may give a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit if the tenant has failed to pay rent according to the terms of the agreement.  A 3-day notice to perform covenant or quit may be given if the tenant has materially breached a covenant of the rental agreement.  For both of these notices, if the tenant cures the breach within three business days (non-holiday, weekdays) the tenancy continues. The tenant may elect to quit during the 3 days, but their obligation to pay money already due under the agreement remains.  The landlord may also serve a 3-day quit notice (without opportunity to cure) for certain non-curable breaches; these are for committing waste or subletting contrary to a covenant of the agreement, or for a nuisance or illegal activity.

Lease Agreements

Neither party can terminate a lease without cause. A lease is a binding contract giving both landlord and tenant certain rights for a fixed period of time. A lease protects the landlord by guaranteeing that the rent on the unit will be pair during the lease period. It also protects the tenant by guaranteeing a set rent which cannot be increased during the term of the agreement.

If a tenant breaks the agreement by not paying the rent, damaging the property, or in any other material way, the landlord may terminate the tenancy for cause. The landlord can give a 30-day notice to vacate stating the specific reason for the notice. The tenant must have violated a term of the written agreement. The landlord can also give a 3-day notice to perform or quit. This notice gives the tenant three days to fix the problem. For example, it would give the tenant 3 days to pay the rent or remedy a violation of the agreement such as clean up the unit or get rid of unauthorized tenants, etc.

The landlord can also, for a very severe violation, give a 3-day notice to quit. This type of notice does not give the tenant an opportunity to fix the problem, rather this notice assumes that the problem is too severe to fix. Examples of severe violations could be: a conviction for drug dealing or other serious crimes, injuring or threatening to physically injure other tenants, etc.

Tenants may also terminate a lease if the landlord breaks the agreement. This is most common in cases where the landlord has failed to make important necessary repairs. In these cases, tenants may vacate the property during the term of the lease without further obligation to the landlord. Examples of important necessary repairs include: failure to repair broken plumbing, failure to provide hot water or electricity, failure to repair a leaking roof during the rainy season, etc.

Warning to tenants: Contact a private attorney or the Fair Housing council for more information. If you do not take the proper steps prior to vacating the unit, you could be in breach of the agreement, not the landlord.

Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act
Specifically, the Fair Housing Act provides protection against the following discriminatory housing practices if they are based on race, sex, religion, color, handicap, familial status or national origin,
• Denying or refusing to rent housing
• Denying or refusing to sell housing
• Treating differently applicants for housing
• Treating residents differently in connection with terms and conditions
• Advertising a discriminatory housing preference or limitation
• Providing false information about the availability of housing
• Harassing, coercing or intimidating people from enjoying or exercising their rights under the Act.
• Blockbusting for profit, persuading owners to sell or rent housing by telling them that people of a particular race, religion, etc. are moving into the neighborhood
• Imposing different terms for loans for purchasing, constructing, improving, repairing, or maintaining a home, or loans secured by housing.
• Denying use of or participating in real estate services, e.g., brokers’ organizations, multiple listing services, etc.


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