Renting and the Law: Can a renter break lease when buying a home?

  • Article by: KELLY KLEIN
  • Updated: April 12, 2014 - 4:00 PM

Q: I was talking to a renter last week, and he made a flat statement regarding breaking a lease. He is in the process of purchasing a condo and has been renting a unit in the same complex. We were chatting because I rent out a few condos myself, but not to this person.

He was talking about when he might close on his new condo, and when he was going to move in. I asked if his current landlord was aware of his purchase, and if the landlord was going to let him out of his lease early. He responded that it didn’t make any difference because if you buy your own place while you are renting, Minnesota law states that your landlord must let you out of your lease.

I suggested that he might want to ask an attorney, since I feel quite certain there is no such law in Minnesota that provides a blanket exit, unless it is specifically written into the lease.

I am wondering if there is such a law, since I am currently renting out a few condos I own, and this law could negatively affect me.

A: There is no Minnesota law that allows a person to break a lease early after buying a house, condo or any other place. It is true that some landlords have an early-termination clause in their lease that allows a tenant to terminate the lease early if the tenant is buying a house, moving for a job or for some other reason. However, many landlords also require payment of a couple of months’ rent to terminate a lease early.

The renter you talked to may have such a clause or buyout provision in his lease, but he should have reviewed his lease or talked to his landlord about it before purchasing a condo. He may be stuck with a mortgage payment and a rental payment.

If there isn’t a buyout provision in a rental lease, many landlords may still allow a tenant to terminate the lease early if a tenant expresses a desire to move. However, in most cases, the tenant will be paying the landlord a couple of months’ rent to terminate early.

Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to kklein@kleinpa.com, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.

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