Legal Issues & Renting

What Could Happen If You Break Your Lease Rules?

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The lease says no pets, but that adorable puppy in the window at the animal shelter captured your heart, and you can’t resist. What could happen? No one will ever know, right?

Maybe and maybe not. Breaking a lease can result in dramatic action, like eviction, or minor consequences, like a figurative slap on the wrist. It might depend on what part of the lease you broke – not paying rent, for example, will be noticed faster than parking a car in the wrong spot – and how the rule-breaking affects the landlord. Here are some of the traditional consequences for breaking a lease:

Eviction

This is probably the most severe consequence. Landlords have the right to proceed with an eviction any time a lease contract is broken by a tenant. Not only does eviction result in the tenant needing to find a new home, it also results in an eviction record appearing on the tenant’s rental history report, which often follows the tenant for up to seven years. When applying for new rental units, tenants may find it difficult to be approved by landlords if they have an eviction record.

Fines

Some lease agreements will spell out a fine system for broken rules. If the lease doesn’t say anything about fines, tenants may be able to successfully argue against paying fines in a court of law.

Warning Letter

Many landlords will provide tenants with warning letters when a lease rule is broken, as the first consequence. However, tenants should not expect to be able to ignore these letters. Landlords could determine to proceed to a stiffer penalty like fines or eviction, if the rule continues to be broken.

One point for all tenants to keep in mind – apartment living (especially when in a larger apartment complex) tends to be very community-oriented, and neighbors often have a good idea of what is happening in neighboring units. So if you do break the rules like bringing a puppy home, consistently parking in the wrong space or storing non-allowed items on decks, your landlord may learn of the rule-breaking quicker than you ever thought possible.