Q: I purchased a home and want to know if there is a way to cancel my rental lease prior to the end of my lease term.

A: Renters often believe they can terminate their lease if they purchase a home. However, that is usually not the case unless your lease has a clause allowing you to terminate the lease early if you are purchasing a home or for a job transfer, or a clause allowing you to pay an amount to terminate the lease early for any reason. There is typically a fee involved.

In Minnesota, there are situations in which a tenant is allowed to terminate a lease early even without a clause; these include a tenant joining the armed forces or having a military transfer, a tenant’s death, or a disability that has occurred or grown worse to the point that the tenant can no longer access the rental unit.

In many states the landlord has a duty to re-rent the unit when a tenant breaks the lease, but Minnesota is not one of those states. If you break your lease without your landlord agreeing to it, you could owe the full rental amount through the end of your lease. However, most landlords will not let the unit sit empty, so if the landlord re-rents your unit, you would owe only the difference between your rent and the new tenant’s rent — the landlord cannot double collect. For example, if you were paying $1,500 a month, and the landlord had to re-rent the place for $1,300, then you would owe only the difference of $200 a month until your lease runs out.

You should check the language in your lease to see if there is a break-lease or buyout clause. If there isn’t a clause allowing you to terminate your lease early, ask your landlord if you could pay a couple months’ rent to terminate your lease early. If your landlord agrees, make sure to get the agreement in writing, and have both parties sign it.

Giving notice

Q: I have a rental property where I’ll be sending the resident a non-renewal notice to terminate the lease when it expires. The lease requires 60-day notice. What do I need to write in the notice, and when do I need to send it?

A: Minnesota law regarding a 60-day notice is more strict when it involves a landlord enforcing the automatic-renewal provision. In your case, the 60-day notice is a non-renewal notice, not an automatic-renewal notice, so just make sure your tenants receive written notice that you won’t be renewing their lease at least 60 days before the lease expires. Landlords who are enforcing the automatic-renewal provision must warn the tenant about the automatic renewal between 15 and 30 days before the 60-day notice is due; this written notice must direct the tenant’s attention to the automatic-renewal provision. The automatic-renewal provision must then be served personally or by certified mail. The landlord’s written warning alerts the tenant to give a 60-day notice to terminate the lease if the tenant wants to move out, so the lease doesn’t automatically renew for two months.

Your situation is different since you don’t want the tenants remaining an additional two months, and you’re ending their lease when it terminates. You must give written notice, stating only that the lease will end in 60 days and you won’t be renewing it. You don’t need to provide a reason, but you cannot retaliate or discriminate against a tenant. The notice can be sent by regular mail three business days before the 60 days would start. Since you are not automatically renewing the lease, notice does not need to be personally served or sent by certified mail.


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, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.