10Ending a lease early

Ending a lease early

If you decide to move, you must provide a written notice to the landlord, generally at least 60 days before the last day of the rental period, or the lease. “Breaking a lease” (i.e. moving before the rental agreement is over) isn’t that easy.

For instance, in Ontario, you can only end an agreement early if:

  1. you and your landlord agree;
  2. you assign the tenancy (and the unit) to someone else;
  3. the LTB issues an order ending the tenancy agreement early;
  4. you are a victim of sexual or domestic violence.

In British Columbia, a fixed-term tenancy agreement cannot be ended early except in three circumstances:

  1. both parties agree in writing;
  2. there are special circumstances such as the tenant is fleeing family violence or the tenant has been assessed as requiring long-term care or has been accepted into a long-term care facility;
  3. or as ordered by an arbitrator.

You cannot force a landlord to end the lease for other common “life reasons,” e.g. buying a house, divorce, conflicts with roommates, moving in with a partner, financial troubles, relocating for work, etc.

Even if your landlord doesn’t have a legal obligation to agree to end the lease, you can still try to convince him. If you succeed, always get the agreement in writing. Note that you could be asked to find a new tenant to take over your lease. If you can’t reach an agreement with your landlord, your two remaining options are subletting or assigning your lease, two common solutions in Canada.

Note that if you move out of a rental unit without giving notice or without giving proper notice you may be responsible for paying the rent until the place is rented to another tenant or until the earliest termination date that could have been put in a notice to end a tenancy, if you had given proper notice.

Assigning your lease

If you want to move out before the lease expires, you can assign the lease to another person, who will then become the tenant. The new tenant (the “assignee”), will be required to pay the same rent and the terms of the original lease will apply.

The first step is to make a written request for the landlord’s approval. Legally, he cannot “unreasonably refuse consent” to an assignment. However, the assignee may have to go through the credit and reference check process.


Subletting can be a good option if you want to go travelling for a while and eventually come back and move in again. While you’re away, you’ll be renting the unit to another person (the “subtenant”), for a period that is less than the length of the lease. Remember that as the tenant, you’re still responsible for all the terms under the lease, including collecting the rent from the subtenant, and making sure it is paid to the landlord.

Again, contact your landlord to get approval.

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