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Breaking a Lease in Escondido, California – Know the Laws

Breaking a Lease in Escondido, California – Know the Laws

It’s every landlord’s dream to find a great tenant that stays for the entire life of the lease. But despite your efforts and the tenant’s good intentions to fulfill their lease obligations, certain unexpected life situations can force them to move out early. 

When that happens, you’ll need to know what appropriate actions you can and cannot take as per state law. This way you avoid an illegal eviction or court costs.

In today’s article, you’ll learn both the justified and unjustified reasons for early lease termination in California. This will help you stay informed on both you and your tenant’s rights. 

Rental Agreements in California 

The importance of requiring tenants to sign a lease agreement before moving in cannot be emphasized enough. The agreement helps summarize each party’s rights and responsibilities for a smooth rental experience. 

Now, when it comes to early lease termination, certain clauses are a must-have in a rental agreement from security deposits to notice. They are as follows. 

  • Notice Requirements. Include in the lease how much notice the tenant must provide you before terminating their lease. This must conform to state and local laws. Under California law, tenants who pay rent on a weekly and monthly basis must provide a 7- and 30-day notice, respectively. 
  • Re-renting Responsibility. Do California landlords have to re-rent the unit after a tenant leaves early to mitigate damages? Yes! You must make reasonable efforts to re-rent the unit rather than charge the tenant for all rent due under the lease. 

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  • Right to Sublet the Unit. State law doesn’t give tenants the right to sublet their units. It’s up to landlords to set the rules in their lease agreement. 

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in California 

Reasons for breaking a lease will usually fall into either of two categories: unjustified or justified. When a tenant has an unjustified reason, it means that they are not off the hook when it comes to their lease obligations. And they would still be liable to abide by the lease, including paying the due rent. 

The following are some examples of unjustified reasons for breaking a lease in California. 

  • The tenant moved into the house they recently bought
  • The tenant got divorced or separated from their significant other
  • The tenant is moving in with their significant other
  • The tenant is moving to another city due to work commitments

However legitimate any of these reasons may be, they are still legally unjustified under California laws. The tenant will still have to pay rent when it becomes due, regardless of living there or not. 

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in California 

Equally, knowing the justified reasons for breaking a lease early in California is crucial. These reasons typically give tenants the right to break free from their lease obligations without penalties. 

That said, the tenant must still notify you on time and provide any necessary documentation before moving out. The following are examples of the legally justified reasons a tenant can use to move out penalty-free in California. 

Active Military Duty 

A tenant who is serving in the military on an active duty basis can break their lease early under federal law. The orders for deployment or relocation must exceed ninety days. 

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Additionally, the tenant must fulfill the following two requirements to qualify to break their lease early. 

  • They must be an active member of the military, National Guard, Reserve, or be a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 
  • The tenant must not have signed the lease after joining the military on an active basis. 

For proof of military duty, the tenant is required to provide the landlord with their ID, or a copy of the letter from their bosses. 

Domestic Violence 

This is another ground for breaking a lease early in California under the landlord-tenant law. Besides domestic violence victims, state law also protects victims of stalking, sexual assault, and sexual abuse. The only requirement for the tenant is to furnish the landlord with appropriate proof. 

The following are the various documentation that the tenant can use to prove their status. 

  • Documentation from a licensed professional, such as a health provider
  • A protective order
  • A temporary injunction
  • An order of emergency protection

In addition to the documentation, the tenant must also provide you with proper notice, which is a 30-day written notice. 


Tenants in California can also break their lease early due to unlivable conditions in their rented premises. That’s why it’s important for landlords to familiarize themselves with the state’s safety and health codes. 

Failure to provide running water, proper plumbing facilities, and safe railings are all things that can make your property unlivable. 

To learn more about your unit’s livability, kindly contact a professional property manager for help. 

Tenant Death 

If a tenant dies before the lease expires, their estate may be able to break their lease early without penalty. The deceased tenant must have been the sole occupant of the property, however. 

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If they had a minor living with them, you’ll have to work out the details with the guardian. 

Landlord Harassment 

All successful landlords have one thing in common – they treat their tenants equally, fairly, and respectfully. They respect their tenant’s privacy, make necessary repairs on time, and treat them fairly as per the Fair Housing Act. 

For a tenant to terminate their lease due to harassment, they must present their case before a judge. The judge will then determine whether or not they should terminate their lease penalty-free. 


As with all other states, a tenant may be able to break their lease early if they become disabled. Under federal law, only the following diseases and conditions qualify as disabilities.  

  • Epilepsy
  • HIV
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Heart diseases
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Autism
  • Visual, speech, or hearing impairments 

Bottom Line

Understanding California law is key to a smooth landlording experience. If you have any questions or would like expert help in the management of your rental property, look no further than Francis Taylor Properties. We’d love to help you maximize your income. Get in touch to learn more!