A Tenant's Right to Cancel a Lease

Laurin Johnson

Tenants might want to cancel their leases so they can move out of their apartments before their leases are supposed to end. But tenants can only cancel a leases in special cases.

 

What Is Resiliation of a Lease?

Resiliation means cancelling or breaking a lease. You can cancel a lease only in special cases.

Cancelling a lease is not the same as not renewing a lease. Non-renewal happens when a tenant tells the landlord he doesn’t want to renew the lease after it comes to an end.  

Important! Contrary to popular belief, a tenant can’t cancel a lease just by giving the landlord three months’ notice. 

 

When You Can Cancel Your Lease

The Landlord Neglects Important Responsibilities

Your landlord must make necessary repairs to your apartment. Also, if the lease says your landlord has to heat your apartment, she has to heat it properly. If she doesn’t make the repairs or provide enough heat, you can ask the Régie du logement (rental board) to cancel your lease. To learn more about heating your apartment, see our article Heating and Rental Housing.

If your apartment is not in good, liveable condition, you or your landlord can ask the Régie to cancel the lease. To learn how, see our article Rental Housing: Cleanliness, Safety and State of Repair.

Spousal or Sexual Violence

You can cancel your lease if your safety, or that of a child living with you, is threatened because of spousal or sexual violence. In the case of spousal violence, the violent behaviour must come from a spouse or former spouse (including an unmarried partner).

You don’t have to file a complaint with the police, but you must meet some conditions. To learn more, see our article Ending a Lease for Spousal or Sexual Violence.

Special Needs

You can also cancel your lease in the following situations:

  • You are moving to low-rent housing.
  • You are a senior moving to
    • a long-term care centre (“CHSLD”),
    • a supervised apartment or group residence or
    • a private seniors’ residence that offers nursing care or personal assistance that you need because of your state of health.
  • You have a disability that prevents you from continuing to live in your apartment.

But you must take some steps before you can leave your apartment. See our article Cancelling a Lease Because of Special Needs.

Important! If you live in low-rent housing, you can cancel your lease at any time by giving your landlord three-months’ written notice. But you can’t sublet your apartment or assign your lease.

 

Other Situations 

If none of the above cases apply to you, you can try to reach an agreement with your landlord to end the lease early. Make sure the agreement is in writing and your landlord signs it. The agreement should state the following things:

  • the landlord agrees to end the lease
  • the new date when the lease will end
  • any other information you think is important

You can also sublet your apartment or assign your lease. In these cases, you must

  • notify your landlord and
  • give your landlord the contact information of the person who will sublet your apartment or take over your lease.

Your landlord must agree to the sublet or assignment unless she has good reason to refuse.

There are important differences between subletting an apartment and assigning a lease. To learn more, see our article Assigning a Lease or Subletting

 

If you just leave and take your belongings . . .

Your lease ends but not your responsibilities!

Important! You might be responsible for 

  • paying the rent until the landlord finds a new tenant, and
  • any damage caused to the apartment.

The landlord can ask the Régie du logement (rental board) for a decision against you.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.