Overview of Breaking a Lease in PA


Typically, a lease agreement runs for a period spanning one year. In most cases, tenants that sign the lease usually intend to stay for the entire life of it, sometimes even longer. However, despite the good intentions, life events do sometimes happen, and the tenant may be forced to break it.

Valid Reasons to Break a Lease in PA

In Pennsylvania, a tenant can break their lease for multiple reasons. They include:

  • Lack of privacy. Pennsylvania landlord-tenant laws state that every tenant has a right to the quiet enjoyment of their home.
  • Lack of safe and habitable premises. Landlords are required to provide a property that has no leaking roofs and walls, and operational sinks, toilets, and showers.
  • Job transfer. A tenant may also choose to break their lease to get closer to their new place of work.
  • Divorce or serious illness. A serious illness can also have an impact on a tenant’s ability to pay rent.
  • Job loss. A tenant who has lost their job may become unable to continue paying rent and may consequently need to move out early.
  • Military deployment. The Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act allows active members of the military to break their lease early to start active duty.

Rights & Responsibilities of Tenants When Signing a Lease in the State of Pennsylvania

In the state of Pennsylvania, a lease agreement obligates both the landlord and the tenant for a specific period of time – usually one year. During this time, the landlord cannot make any changes to the lease, including raising the price of rent.


The only exception to this is if the lease explicitly states that a landlord can raise the rent.

Furthermore, a landlord cannot under any circumstances force a tenant to vacate the premises prior to the expiry of the lease. The only exception is if they fail to adhere to the terms of the lease agreement. For example, by failing to pay rent when it’s due or by disrupting the peace and quiet of their neighbors.

On the tenant’s part, Pennsylvania law requires that they abide by the terms of the lease agreement. More precisely, they are bound to pay rent for the entire duration of the lease. So, supposing the rental price is $1,000, and the lease runs for one year, then that will signify that your tenant owes the landlord $12,000 for the whole period the lease will be active.

If the renter ends up breaking your lease midway through, it will mean that they still owe the landlord the remainder of the rent.

Eviction Notices in the State of Pennsylvania

To end a tenancy, many states, including Pennsylvania, require landlords to issue their tenants with certain notices. Essentially, an eviction notice is the first step in the eviction process and notifies tenants of an impending or possible eviction.

The following are the two eviction notices in the state of Pennsylvania:

  • The 10-day Notice: This notice gives a tenant ten days to either pay due rent or move out. If they pay the rent within the timeframe, then the matter will be resolved. If not, then the landlord may escalate the issue and file a formal eviction lawsuit against their tenant.
  • An unconditional Quit Notice: This notice does not provide a tenant with an option to resolve the matter. If the landlord serves their tenant with this notice, it signifies that the renter has exactly 30 days to move out.

When Breaking a Lease is Legally Justified in the State of Pennsylvania

Few exceptions exist to the general rule that tenants who break their leases are liable for the remainder of the rent. The following are the situations in which the renter may be able to move out prior to their lease term ending:

1. When Beginning Active Military Duty

Active duty military members have certain protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, otherwise known as SCRA.


A tenant must be part of the “uniformed services.” This includes members of the armed forces, the activated National Guard, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The renter must provide their landlord a notice of their intent to break the lease early to honor their military obligations. The notice must be written and be made at least thirty days prior to the desired date of termination.

2. When the Unit is Uninhabitable

A tenant may also break their lease when the landlord fails to provide a unit that is not up to par in regards to health or safety codes. The habitability law stipulates that landlords:

  • Follow health and safety codes
  • Perform repairs
  • Keep the common areas clean
  • Provide proper trash bins for garbage
  • Ensure tenants have access to running water at all times

If the tenant’s landlord fails to do so, a judge would probably rule in the tenant’s favor citing that their landlord has “constructively evicted” them.

3. When the Landlord Doesn’t Respect the Tenant’s Privacy

Tenants in the state of Pennsylvania have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. This means that their landlord must provide them with adequate notice prior to entering their home. Pennsylvania does not, however, specify the exact amount of notice landlords should give their tenants.

Landlord’s Responsibility to Find a Replacement Tenant

A landlord must make reasonable efforts to find a replacement tenant no matter the reason for breaking the lease early. If the landlord finds a new tenant, then the one that just moved out will only be liable to pay the amount the landlord loses.

Landlord’s Responsibility to Find a Replacement Tenant

Disclaimer: This blog is purely informational. It isn’t a substitute for legal advice. If you have more questions, please seek professional help from a licensed attorney. You can also contact us at Grow Property Management at (267) 414-0970 for more information.


Joe White

Joe White is a Philadelphia Property Manager and Real Estate Broker. He is the owner of Grow Property Management and has been involved in the management, sales and purchases of Philadelphia area rental investment properties since 2008. He is an author and works as a real estate investment consultant and construction manager.

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