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Breaking a Lease in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Know the Laws

As a landlord in Pennsylvania, it’s important that you understand the local landlord-tenant laws. This includes knowing the rules and regulations when it comes to tenants breaking a lease early. Note that breaking a lease is not the same as evicting a tenant.

In this article, we will cover unjustified and justified reasons for early lease termination, so that you will be well informed on your rights as well as your tenants’ rights when it comes to this aspect of Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law.

Lease Agreements in Pennsylvania

Having a solid lease agreement is very important. When your tenant signs their lease, it is your responsibility as a landlord to make sure that they are aware of the consequences for unjustifiably breaking a lease, and that they are aware of their rights for justifiably breaking a lease.

Your rental agreement should also include how much notice a tenant must give you when ending their periodic lease in Pennsylvania.

In the state of Pennsylvania, your tenant must give you 15 days’ notice if they rent monthly, for a year or less, and for an undetermined amount of time. They must give you 30 days’ notice if they are renting for more than a year.

You should also include your responsibility as a landlord to re-rent the unit in the lease agreement.

Rows of documents

As a landlord in Pennsylvania, you are not required by law to make reasonable steps to re-rent the rental property when a tenant breaks their lease.

Finally, a solid lease agreement should include the tenant’s rights to sublet in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, subletting is not prohibited so you have to explicitly include a clause in the lease agreement saying otherwise or outlining that you require your tenants to get your approval first before subletting the rental.

To request your approval for a sublet, the tenant must formally make the request and send it by certified mail. The request letter must include the following pieces of information:

  • Name of the proposed subtenant.
  • Permanent home address of the proposed subtenant.
  • The reason for subletting or leaving permanently.
  • Tenant’s new address during the sublease, if applicable.
  • Written consent of any co-tenant, if applicable.
  • The terms of the sublease.
  • A copy of the proposed sublease.

As a landlord, you have the right to reject the request based on legitimate factors, otherwise, you might be unreasonably refusing the sublet and could possibly violate fair housing laws.

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Pennsylvania

The below reasons are generally not enough justification on their own to release a tenant from the lease, and as a result, provide no legal protection against penalties for not honoring the lease.

Family of three packing moving boxes together

Since a lease agreement is a legally binding contract, tenants are expected to fulfill the terms of the contract until its end date or until they reach an amicable agreement with you.

  • The tenant bought a house.
  • The tenant is relocating for a new job or school.
  • The tenant is moving in with a partner.
  • The tenant is moving to be closer to family.

Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons without court approval or under any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants. If a tenant would like to break a lease for any of these reasons, the tenant should ask the landlord to agree to a mutual termination.

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Pennsylvania

As a landlord in Pennsylvania, you must also know the justified reasons for a tenant to break a lease early. Below, you will find justified reasons for the early termination of a lease.

Active Military Duty

It is considered justifiable to break the lease prematurely if your tenant received an order for deployment or a permanent change of station after signing a lease with you. They are protected by the Servicemember Civil Relief Act or SCRA.

To break the lease early, the tenant must give you written notice along with a copy of their military orders. The notice must be given at least 30 days before the projected end date. Once the notice is provided, the tenant’s lease responsibilities will end 30 days after the next rent payment is due.

Military member in fatigues and a black beret standing in front of an American flag

It is also important to note that the SCRA protection won’t apply if your tenant signed the lease after receiving their permanent change of station or deployment or if the lease is with the government itself. Consequently, your tenant may still be responsible for any rent or other applicable fees owed before the lease end date.

Domestic Violence

In Pennsylvania, domestic violence can be a justifiable reason to terminate a lease early but will not always be automatic and must be determined by a court.

Your tenant may terminate the lease early if they are a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault according to the Protection from Abuse Act (PFA).

Through this act, your tenant can obtain a court order that highlights stipulations on the victim's safety that may include prohibiting the abuser from contacting or approaching the victim within a specified distance.

To terminate the lease, your tenant must provide you with a written notice along with the PFA order and a statement that they are terminating their lease because of domestic violence.

Landlord Harassment

As a Pennsylvania landlord, you must respect your tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment. It is their right to enjoy their rented property without interference from the landlord or other people during the tenancy.

A real estate agent and potential homebuyer inside of a modern kitchen

So, it is considered reasonable to break the lease early if the landlord violates the tenant's privacy rights or engages in harassment or discrimination. While there is no mandate under any law in Pennsylvania on the amount of notice a landlord must provide, it is recommended to give 24 hours' notice before visiting the rental property.


Now you are well-versed when it comes to breaking a lease in Pennsylvania. If you have any questions, please reach out to the team at TrustArt Realty!

We are a leading property management company in Philadelphia and have worked with landlords and investors in the area for many years. We’d love to work with you, too!

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.


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