How To Terminate A Lease

How To Terminate A Lease

Written by Corrina Murdoch
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated July 8, 2021

Leasing property is a cost-effective way to live, whether over the long term or to save money for your next step. If you find a great place, at a price you’re happy about, it’s smooth sailing. However, if your living situation no longer suffices, your lease can leave you trapped. There are tons of reasons people choose to end a lease. From welcoming a new child to issues with the building, people terminate leases frequently. 

It’s worth noting that the cost of finding a new tenant rather than keeping an existing one is much more costly for the owner. As such, knowing exactly how to terminate a lease can make finding a new place much easier. There are many approaches, and choosing wisely will determine how successful your lease termination will be. 

Get Your Landlord To End Your Tenancy

The first option is usually the easiest. Any opportunity to keep things from being contentious is a good thing. Even if the situation is stressful, making an amicable break is best. It leaves you with a better rental reference along with a quicker result. Approach your landlord, keeping records of all communications. Inform them of your situation and that you need to terminate your lease before the end of the rental period. In many cases, landlords will accommodate simply because they can charge subsequent tenants more. Be sure to get a written agreement between the lessor and lessee to keep. If at all possible, this is the best route to take. 

Learn more about tenant rights across Canada here.

Sublet Or Assign Your Place 

If you wish to end your lease yet the landlord will not accommodate, there are other approaches you can take. Provided there is no lease stipulation or provincial regulation stating otherwise, there are other paths to take. 

Subletting

When you sublet, you are still the primary tenant on the lease, meaning you are responsible for payment. However, you then effectively re-rent the place to the sublessee. They pay you and you subsequently pay your landlord. Be sure to have a legal rental agreement in place, particularly since you remain responsible for the actions of your renter. Be sure that there is no clause in your lease barring this action. It’s common for there to be a note where you can’t turn a profit on the rental, but in most cases subletting is a good way to exit a lease. 

Assign The Lease

Assigning your lease is another approach, which can often be used in conjunction with a sublessee. Say, your lease ends in October, but you need to leave in September. You would find someone who wants a permanent apartment beginning in October. In this case, instead of subletting, you would simply assign the remainder of the lease to the new renter. You are then off the hook for the lease and free to pursue a new opportunity. It is a convenient, and amicable, way to get out of a lease. However, it’s worth noting that there may be some legal fees and you cannot assign a lease without your landlord. Outside of that, this is one of the most efficient ways to get out of a lease. 

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Send A Notice To Your Landlord

Should your landlord disallow you to either assign or sublet the property, it’s not the end of the road. The next step is through sending a notice of termination to the landlord. It is also an applicable option if your landlord breaches your lease in any way. Take the time to read the fine print and keep records of all your communication. 

A contract requires five components to be valid: offer, acceptance, consideration, consent and capacity, and lawful intent. You can either find a way where the landlord violated one of these conditions or look into the lease details. Did the landlord miss a fire alarm inspection? Is the property kept up to code? The idea is to avoid being contentious, yet stand your ground. 

When you supply the notice, you will need two things: a reason and a timeline. The amount of notice required to leave a lease depends on the province. The reason depends on both provincial legislation and the lease’s underwriting. Clearly and concisely state the cause of the need to terminate. Note the date at which you will leave, considering the law of the land. Each jurisdiction is unique:

Alberta

The requirements for sending notice depends on whether your tenancy is fixed or periodic. A fixed agreement ends automatically at the set date, where you are able to re-up the lease. Periodic rentals are more nuanced. If it is a weekly rental, you must supply one week’s notice. For monthly rentals, it is a one month notice. Yearly rentals require 60 days’ notice. In each case, notice must be issued at the start of the period (ie: the first day of the week). The notice must include the address, the tenancy end date, and the signature of the renter. 

Ontario 

In Ontario, it can be tricky to get out of a lease unless there is an extenuating circumstance. Potential situations include an unfit residence, landlord harassment, domestic violence issues, or health and safety risks. In Ontario, there is a fixed form used for leases, and you can also exit a lease with 60 days’ notice if the form is incorrect. Many situations are best when handled through the Landlord Tenant Board, especially if the issue is related to the living situation. However, if it’s possible to end the agreement amicably, you can fill Form N11 (Agreement to Terminate a Tenancy). It will be much quicker. 

Quebec

Lease resiliation can be difficult in Quebec, granted only in certain situations. In this province, leases automatically renew. As such, if you need to terminate the lease, you need 90 days’ notice. Even if you supply this notice, though, the landlord can refuse to grant the non-renewal. There are few situations that override this, including landlord neglect, violence in the home, or pursuing housing to accommodate special needs, such as moving to low-income housing or senior care. Thankfully, your landlord must accept a sublet unless there is a good reason for refusal. As such, in this province, subletting is usually a preferred method. 

Saskatchewan

In this province, there are specific forms to fill out, in addition to the notice requirements. For a monthly tenancy, simply fill out the Notice to Terminate form and supply it to the landlord. Notice must be issued by the last day of the month preceding your departure. It totals around 60 days. Extenuating circumstances can lead to more efficient departures, but you must have proof to file for cause

Manitoba

In this jurisdiction, there are different approaches to periodic and fixed-term rentals. Periodic (weekly or monthly) agreements require one full rental payment’s worth of notice. For example, if you plan to leave on August 31, you must issue notice and pay the final month on July 31. Fixed rentals are different. Three months prior to the renewal period, the landlord sends a renewal form. You must indicate the intent to move out at the end of the tenancy agreement. For extreme situations, such as health concerns, you must give a full rental period. If the unit is impacted by a Rehabilitation Scheme or the termination is the result of a rent increase, two months’ notice is required. 

Newfoundland 

In Newfoundland, leases extend as long as a year. Either party can terminate the agreement upon the expiration date, though two months’ notice is required from the tenant and three from the landlord. Without renewal, if no notice is issued, it automatically converts to a monthly periodic tenancy. For those situations, a period of one months’ notice is needed from the tenant.  

Prince Edward Island

To end a lease, you must issue a formal Notice of Termination to the landlord. Even with this, the landlord can deny the request unless there is an extenuating circumstance. Since subletting is allowed, where the landlord cannot deny the option without cause, it is usually the best way to go. To terminate a lease, if you plan the change in advance, you must issue at least one month’s notice. 

New Brunswick

New Brunswick has some of the most straightforward rental legislation in the country. A fixed term lease ends automatically, while periodic leases require a notice amount equalling the rental period. If it’s weekly, you need a week’s notice. For yearly, though, only three months is required. For long-term rentals, agreements of upwards of five years, the tenant can end the arrangement with only one month notice. 

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, there are a few ways to end a lease before the period expires. Most are rooted in reasons for termination, including health issues, inability to pay rent, or landlord neglect. Another option is subletting or lease assignment, which tends to be the most efficient way to leave a lease in this province. Be sure to keep records of all your agreements and any relevant correspondence. 

Nunavut And The Northwest Territories

In both these territories, it is the obligation of the tenant and landlord to attempt a renegotiation of terms. Leases automatically update after the set term, converting into a month-to-month agreement. Any notice issued must be signed by the issuing party, state the tenancy end date, the reason for termination, and state the address of the property. You need to issue a week’s notice for weekly tenancy, 30 days for monthly rentals, and 60 days if your monthly tenancy has exceeded the period of a year. 

Yukon 

Renting in the Yukon is fairly straightforward, governed by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act. Leases automatically renew, converting to month-to-month rentals. The system is governed on a good faith basis, where it is the duty of the landlord and lessee to mitigate any strain or losses. If you need to end a lease for reasons beyond your control, filing a written notice to your landlord is the first step. As the renter, it is your obligation to try and find a suitable replacement tenant. 

Amount Of Notice Required By Province

ProvinceWeekly RentalMonthly RentalYearly Rental
British ColumbiaOne weekOne monthOne month
AlbertaOne weekOne month60 days
SaskatchewanOne weekOne monthOne month
ManitobaOne weekOne monthMust assign loan or wait until end of term
Ontario28 days28 days30 days
QuebecOne weekThree monthsThree months
NewfoundlandOne weekTwo monthTwo months
New BrunswickOne weekOne monthThree months
Nova ScotiaOne weekThree monthsThree months
Prince Edward IslandOne weekOne monthTwo months
YukonOne weekOne monthThree months
Northwest Territories and NunavutOne weekOne monthOne month 

Click here to learn about rent control rules and regulations across Canada.

Tips On Ending Your Tenancy

Ending your tenancy is always best when you can plan ahead. Some rental agreements include early-exit stipulations. Often, this can include a penalty fee and the landlord keeping your security deposit. There are some ways to terminate your lease gracefully: 

Keep It Amicable

You will likely need your landlord as a reference at some point in the future. When possible, it is best to simply get the landlord to agree to let you out of the lease. Unless the landlord is one of the reasons for your departure, honey catches more flies than vinegar. Start by asking nicely. 

Retain All Correspondence 

Friendliness doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to prudence. Keep track of all correspondence. If it’s over the phone, dash out a few notes and track the call. Hold onto all texts, emails, and paper copies relating to your tenancy. These, along with your lease, are essential documentation. 

Report Issues As Soon As They Arise

You can’t claim that your landlord didn’t complete repairs if you have no record of informing them of the damage. When fixes are needed, it’s the tenant’s onus to inform the landlord promptly. Keep track of these communications to showcase any property neglect. 

Get Everything In Writing 

Whenever it’s possible to leave a paper trail, do so. Emails and texts are good, but paper copies are superior. Hold onto your lease, and when you send in your notice of termination, keep a copy. Even if you end things amicably, be sure to have a paper copy of the agreement in case issues arise in the future. 

Understand The Rules

The housing market in terms of rentals is regulated on a provincial basis. Each jurisdiction has a set amount of notice required and acceptable causes of termination. Be sure that you are familiar with the standards of practice in your area. 

Give Proper Notice

The only way for a rental property to be profitable to the landlord is if there are renters in it. Proper notice enables the landlord to find a new tenant. In fact, in provinces like Manitoba, it is your obligation to assist in finding a new resident. By giving proper notice, you can hold onto a valuable reference and make your transition easier. 

Plan Ahead

Before you take any steps, make a plan. Determine the expected amount of notice you should leave. If you are unable to meet that threshold, figure out how to best approach the situation. It may be speaking with your landlord or declaring extenuating circumstances. However, once you start the process, it’s hard to undo it. Make a plan, keep thorough records, and make best efforts to make it an easy process for all parties involved. 

Final Notes On Lease Termination

Leases are legally-binding contracts; and, as such, they are not meant to be terminated without cause. Before you sign a lease, consider your obligations as a renter. Learn about the rules in your area to better plan ahead. In most cases, even yearly leases convert into month-to-month arrangements after a set period. As such, if you are on a fixed lease, it is usually better to wait out the period of a lease or sublet. Periodic leases are much easier to leave, while fixed leases are meant for long-term renters and harder to exit. That said, if extenuating circumstances do arise, every province has accommodations that enable tenants to exit their lease. So long as you plan a graceful exit, you can terminate a lease and remain in good standing with your landlord. 


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Corrina Murdoch has been a dedicated freelance writer and editor for several years. With an academic background in the sciences and a penchant for mathematics, she seeks to provide readers with accurate, reliable information on important topics. Working as a print journalist for several years, Corrina expanded her reach into the digital sphere to help more people gain insight into the realm of finances. When she's not writing, you can find Corrina swimming and spending time with family.

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