Landlord's Ability to Terminate Lease

11 Replies

Can a Chicago landlord terminate a lease at any time (i.e. no issues / paying on time etc) with written notice prior to the end of the term?  How many days written notice to tenants is required?

Background:  I have a 1 year term rental agreement in place. I am currently living overseas but plan to relocate back to my house in 6 months and may like to move back in.  Legally, (excluding any oral discussions with tenant) do I have the right to cancel the lease? I know Rahm Emmanuel (current mayor of chicago) ran into this issue where he had to cancel his property which was leased and was successfully able to do so but not without a bit of backlash. 

Thanks in advance for any thoughts / advice. 

I don't chicago laws. I have a buy clause in my lease and it is good for both sides. I also have a reverse military clause. While this won't help you now these might be good things for future leases.

Have you thought about just buying another house and keeping this one as a rental.

Thanks Elizabeth.  I actually haven't had the tenants execute the lease - its their 3rd year so am comfortable with them  - the annual lease ended on 1/31/15 and I agreed the rental rate (same as prior year) and confirmed they had no plans to leave - my lease requires 60 days written notice from the tenants.   I am about to send over the lease for them to sign (1/31/15 to 1/31/16) and I have included an additional rider to the lease that says I can cancel the lease at any time without cause with 60 days written notice.  I am just interested in knowing if I am legally allowed to cancel a lease with 60 days written notice without cause (other than relocation / wanting to move into my old place). 

As additional background, I plan on relocating from Sydney, Australia in July of 2015.....but am considering buying another place and continuing to rent the townhouse....yet would like to have the flexibility to decide in May15 while still having a more formal commitment from the tenants.  

Great question. I would love to see the outcome of this question.

You can't terminate a lease any time you want, but you can choose not to RENEW a lease, but you must give the proper notice of your intent to NOT RENEW THE LEASE, according to your state laws, so many days prior to the lease expiration date. 

You cannot terminate a years lease just because you want to come back home.  A contract is a contract, and you are not the Mayor...right?

In Michigan we must give a 30 Day Notice to Quit and it must be a FULL  30 Day Notice.  It must cover the entire rental month.  But it must be sent to the tenant a few days before that rental month in order to give the tenant a FULL 30 Day notice of your intent not to RENEW the lease.

So if you choose to move back into this home, you will need to submit a notice to this tenant prior to their lease expiring that you do not wish to RENEW their lease. 

Nancy Neville

@Derek Venhuizen  Why not change the term to a six month lease? If you don't do anything will the old lease convert to month to month? Even better...

@Derek Venhuizen  if I remember correctly the mayor offered a three month buyout publicly of his tenants lease if they moved.  Who knows what he ended up doing in the end then because the mayors tenant had a clause in the lease that the tenant was unable to discuss the terms of the lease with the media.  

Keep it simple!!  Do a 6 month lease or do a kickout clause for either party after 6 months.  If the attorneys ever come down on people in Chicago it is when a lease is unfair.  If there is a kickout clause for both sides after 6 months that is fair.  

Don't forget to pay your security deposit interest after first 12 months or at the end.  That is where you get in bigger trouble.  

@Derek Venhuizen  -  No, you cannot terminate a lease mid term.  If they have been there 2 years, I would just put them on a month to month lease with a 30 or 60 day out clause.  

And since you don't seem to be familiar with it, here is the Chicago RLTO summary which you should know to avoid lawsuits

As stated above you cannot terminate the lease however as you said you can negotiate to cancel it with them directly which is very likely to work through simply explaining to them the situation. If you help them find a place or give them a months rent free for the inconvenience you  may be able to get back in yourself. 

There is a slim chance your lease is not written with Chicago rental criteria however I believe regardless of your lease the Chicago laws will supersede your lease. Tenants rights are really in the favor of the tenant here in Chicago. 

Again, be nice to them and talk to them and get it done that way. Don't mention the lease or the terms in the lease at all. That will most likely backfire. 

Brie's comment about putting them on a month to month lease would only be possible after this current lease expires. In fact, you would not need to sign a new lease in order to get a month to month lease in place. Simply by accepting the rental check for the follow month (or months) after a lease expires is an extension of the lease (for 30 days).But that is another topic for another post. Again I don't think this will apply to your case. 

Be civil with them, You know... "old school " and you should be fine. Unless the start reading the lease and tenant rights. Then your SCREWED :)

First of all, thank you for your responses.

In summary, based on responses above it appears legally a Chicago landlord is unable to terminate a lease with tenants without cause prior to the end of term unless there is a buyout clause that is equal and equitable to both parties. 

My chosen course of action: I will let the lease automatically convert to month to month with a required 30 days written notice required from either the landlord or tenants if either wishes to not renew. Giving flexibility to both parties which is equitable and fair.  

Additional responses to below:

@Elizabeth Colegrove - Thank you for highlighting the buy out clause - this is common in Sydney, Australia but was not aware of its use in the states.  Although, due to strictness of the Chicago leases (essentially your not able to make changes to the standard lease) - I am not confident this would hold up in Chicago.  Also, in my situation it would most likely work against me - but understand how this could be very beneficial for a landlord in keeping tenants from breaking leases if made clear on execution.

@ Nancy Neville - Thank you for your response and I am definitely not the Mayor!!!  Just interested in that individual situation and any legal precedence. And yes I will be sure I provide 30 days written notice that I wish to not renew (or to speak individually with them and give them the flexibility to move out earlier or align our dates based both their ability to find a place and my ability to move back in)

@Dominic Jones - hopefully these responses were as helpful to you as me. 

@Andreas Mirza - Thank you. Also, I have chosen your course of action i.e. automatic extension / month to month. 

@Mark Ainley - Thank you for the background on Rahm's public offer and highlighting the security deposit interest issue - I will be sure to pay the interest to them - although with today's interest rates it will not be significant.  These 'kick out clauses' are a bit new to me - not sure if these our actually legal in Chicago.

@Brie Schmidt - Thank you for highlighting the Chicago RLTO website! Those terms our included in my Chicago lease.  

@Jim Gramata - Thank you. Yes, the lease does have the Chicago rental criteria. Although, I have added a couple riders (e.g. not responsible for repairs under $100 - as I do not want to be changing lightbulbs, etc) which my understanding is they may not hold up in the off chance that there was a legal action - but like you said the key is to be civil and to develop a mutual understanding - outside of T&C's. Lastly, while I wish to be fully informed by the law - I never refer to the lease in conversation with tenants and prefer to deal with tenants fairly and equitable "old school" approach while fully understanding any legal implications. 


Check your state. There is something called a "Landlord or Owner move-in eviction".

In Ohio (for example) an owner CAN terminate a lease based on specific criteria. I DO NOT know the exact specifics (amount of days notice) but it is a certain amount of days for a family member needing to move in to the property and less for when the actual owner of the property needs to move in. 

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