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Landlord and Tenant Regulations

What Is a Termination of Tenancy?

A tenancy can end when the lease term is up. It can also end by self-help eviction (if allowed in the jurisdiction) or suing the tenant to evict him or her. Constructive eviction may occur because of wrongful conduct on the part of the landlord. Abandonment might also trigger lease termination.

A tenancy can end in several ways. The most common is that the rental period runs out and the tenant voluntarily leaves the property. Ideally, in this situation the tenant returns the property in the same condition that they rented the property in minus normal wear and tear. The landlord then returns the tenant's security deposit in full.

Landlords also sometimes choose to evict tenants. In the most common type of eviction, the landlord physically prevents the tenant from possessing the premises. This often involves changing the locks and barring the tenant from the property. Usually, for an eviction of this type to occur the landlord involves the court system to get legal permission to have the police remove the tenant from the property if the tenant has refused to vacate the premises voluntarily.

In a self-help eviction, a landlord throws out a tenant without following the eviction process. In most states, this type of eviction is illegal because there is no formal notice, hearing, appeals, or other process safeguards for tenants.

A constructive eviction is a circumstance in which a landlord fails to meet a required duty or does something against their legal duty, making a property uninhabitable. For example, if a landlord refuses to fix major problems with a rental unit—especially critical systems such as heat, electricity, and water that causes the tenant to be unable to live in the property—then the tenant has been constructively evicted from the property and may seek damages against the landlord as appropriate. The tenant must notify the landlord and must move out within a reasonable time if the tenant is to be successful in asserting a constructive eviction claim.

Lastly, a tenancy may end due to the tenant abandoning the property. For example, most leases require the tenant to live in a residential unit continuously or operate a business in a commercial unit continuously. A tenant who moves or closes up a business without notifying the landlord in advance may be considered to have abandoned the lease. In that case, the landlord is within their rights to move quickly to secure the property and find another party to lease the property to. This is because it is often injurious to the landlord to have an abandoned property, even if the tenant is still paying rent. For a residential property, if no one is on the property regularly, small maintenance issues may grow and become expensive problems to fix. For commercial properties such as a mall, a landlord will not want to have vacant tenant store space, as that affects other tenants in the mall. Customers are likely to stop shopping at malls that have low occupancy rates and many empty storefronts.