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Terminating a lease agreement early as a landlord: complete guide

If the tenant can terminate their lease agreement at any time, it is not the same for the landlord. The landlord is required to wait until the renewal date corresponding to the lease expiration. However, the landlord can terminate a lease for specific reasons and respecting notice periods.

Definition of a residential lease

To understand why terminating a lease by the landlord before its term poses a problem, let's recall what a residential lease is. It's a contract signed by two parties: the owner of a house or apartment, called the lessor on one hand, and the tenant, called the lessee on the other hand. This contract stipulates that the lessor makes their property available to the lessee who pays rent in return.

The lessor drafts the lease, defining all the rental terms. The lessee approves it after reading and signing. Therefore, terminating a lease by the landlord cannot be done at any time and without a legitimate reason. Even at the end of the contract, legal obligations must be respected. Colonies, a company specialized in housing solutions, facilitates the process of terminating a lease by the landlord before its term. You just need to submit the required documents on Colonies' website, which will then be forwarded to your tenant.

Who are protected tenants?

There is a category of tenants who benefit from special protection: protected tenants. They are protected by law against the landlord's notice given at the lease expiration date. A tenant is protected when they meet two specific characteristics:

  • They are over 65 years old, and their income is below the thresholds defined by law.

  • Or they host a person over 65 years old.

The renewal of their lease is automatic. However, it may not be automatically renewed if:

  • The landlord is also over 65 years old at the lease expiration date.

  • The landlord's income is also below the same thresholds.

  • As a landlord, providing relocation solutions to their tenant is required. The new accommodation must be in the same region or a neighboring district if the municipality is divided into districts. It must also meet the tenant's needs.

What are the reasons for terminating a lease?

Terminating a lease by the landlord before its term can only be done in certain specific situations: termination of the lease for the sale of the property, termination of the lease for the landlord's repossession, and termination of the lease by the landlord for a legitimate and serious reason.

Termination of the lease for a legitimate and serious reason

The landlord's decision to give notice to their tenant may be linked to a legitimate and serious reason. This may correspond to the tenant's failure to fulfill one of their obligations:

  • Frequent rent payment delays.

  • Disturbances caused in the neighborhood.

  • Poor maintenance of the property. This could endanger it or put it at risk.

  • The tenant sublets the property without informing the landlord.

  • They intend to undertake extensive work in the property.

These cases of tenant fault may lead the landlord to not present legitimate justification to take back their property before the term.

Termination of the lease for sale

Regardless of the lease expiration date, the landlord has the right to put their house or apartment, whether in Paris or another city, up for sale at any time. The lessor must mention the reason for the notice with certain mandatory mentions. In the case of a notice given for sale or repossession, these mentions concern the lessor's obligations and compensations as well as the tenant's specific recourse options. If the tenant wishes to buy the property, they must inform the lessor within 2 months of the sales offer and indicate whether or not they are taking out a mortgage. If so, they have a period of 2, or even 4 months to sign the deed of sale.

Repossessing a property for a family member

Legally, terminating a lease by the landlord before its term is possible if the landlord wishes to repossess a property for a family member or for themselves, to make it their primary residence. Repossession for a secondary residence is not allowed.

Furthermore, the landlord can only give notice to their tenant if the family member in question is:

  • their spouse;

  • their partner in a cohabitation agreement for more than a year at the time of notice;

  • their PACS partner;

  • ancestors or descendants;

  • an ancestor or descendant of their spouse, cohabitation partner, or PACS partner.

Principal residence or not: how to give notice?

When the property serves as the tenant's primary residence, the conditions are more complex. However, if it serves as their primary residence, the rules are more flexible.

A principal residence is understood to be the dwelling that accommodates an entire family and where each has their material, professional, and personal interests. If the tenant pays taxes at the address of the rented property and resides there with their family for eight months or more per year, it serves as their principal residence.

Principal residence

The law provides for the possibility of terminating a lease agreement before its term when the property represents the tenant's principal residence. The rules here are imperative, meaning they are unavoidable and provided for in the contract.

  • Form of notice: three modes are possible, namely: bailiff's act, registered letter, and hand delivery against acknowledgment of receipt.

  • Timing of the notice: the notice is only given when the contract is about to end. If the contract is still running, it cannot be terminated, regardless of the lessor's situation (illness, unemployment, separation).

  • Reason for the notice: repossession of the property, its sale, or a legitimate and serious reason.

Non-primary residence

In the case where the property serves as a secondary residence, i.e., a pied-à-terre, the notice does not impose strict rules. The clauses of the contract are considered mandatory mentions. In this regard, the landlord can:

  • Not explain the reasons for the notice.

  • Take a shorter notice period than for a primary residence.

However, it is necessary to mention that unlike the landlord, the tenant can give notice at any time.

Terminating a lease by the landlord before its term: what is the procedure to follow?

The reasons invoked, the notice periods, and the content of the termination letter drafted by the landlord are subject to specific rules.

Termination letter of the lease by the landlord

The notice of termination must be sent to the tenant by a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt. It can also be delivered by a bailiff's act or in person. Other channels such as phone or email are not allowed. Attention, the reason for the notice must be visible. The following information is mandatory in the notice letter:

  • The reason for the notice.

  • The contact details of the beneficiary of the repossession.

  • The existing family relationship.

  • An indication justifying the real and reliable nature of the repossession.

Deadlines to respect

According to the Alur law, the notice letter must reach the tenant within a period of less than 6 months before the lease expiration date (for unfurnished rental). For a furnished rental, the period extends to 3 months. When the notice letter reaches the tenant, they can leave the property as they wish. Rent and charges related to the house must be paid for the duration they occupy it. For example, if the tenant leaves the property a month and a half before the end of the notice period, they will not pay rent and charges for this duration.

An acquirer of a property occupied by a tenant who wishes to give them notice is subject to certain deadlines:

  • If it is a notice for sale: in the case of terminating a lease by the landlord before 3 years after the acquisition, they must wait until the first renewal or renewal of the lease. If the contract expiration exceeds 3 years after the purchase, they must wait until its term.

  • If it is a notice for repossession: when the contract expiration is less than 2 years after the acquisition, they must wait 2 years. However, if it is more than 2 years, they must wait until its term.

Expelling the tenant

If the tenant has not yet vacated the premises after the notice period has expired, the landlord can initiate legal proceedings before the court of the municipality where the property is located. This procedure allows them to validate the notice and evict the tenant. In an order dated February 8, 2006, the Court of Cassation stipulated that this procedure is not valid before the expiration of the notice period.

On the day of the notice period, both parties meet to establish an inventory of fixtures. If the property is in good condition and the tenant is not required to pay any amount, the landlord must refund the entire security deposit. If damages are noted, amounts corresponding to the damages may be deducted from the security deposit.

In what cases can the tenant contest the termination before its term?

In certain specific cases, the tenant has the right to refuse the notice given by the landlord:

  • All tenants did not receive the notice letter.

  • The notice was not given by the landlord or their representative.

  • The tenant received the letter in a standard format (ordinary letter).

  • The notice concerns a protected tenant.

  • The sale of the property is related to a fraudulent attempt.

  • The landlord did not inform their tenant of their offer to sell under advantageous conditions or at an attractive rate.

This dispute can occur in three distinct stages:

  • The tenant sends a notification to the landlord. It is a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt. Its content must mention the facts precisely.

  • If no agreement is reached between the parties, either party can appeal to the departmental conciliation commission, all this free of charge.

  • If disagreement persists, the tenant can appeal to the judge of litigation protection court responsible for the property.

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