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Breaking a Lease in Illinois - Know Your Rights

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As a landlord in Illinois, you must understand the rules and regulations when it comes to residents breaking leases. While establishing a stable and respectful landlord-tenant relationship is the ideal scenario, there are unpredictable circumstances that may lead residents to request early lease terminations. 

Breaking leases early can be stressful for a landlord and their residents. When faced with such situations, it's crucial for landlords to be well-versed in the legal aspects of breaking a lease.

Whether you're an experienced landlord looking to refresh your knowledge or a new owner venturing into the Illinois rental market, you need to understand the unjustified and justified reasons for early lease termination so that you can protect your rights, as well as your residents’ rights. 

This article provides each landlord with the information they need when a tenant wants to break a lease, how to minimize financial disruptions, and maintain harmonious relationships with your residents while adhering to state laws.

Rental Agreement in Illinois

As a landlord, having a clear rental lease agreement is essential for any tenancy as it helps residents know the rules before they agree to lease a rental. Landlords should make sure residents understand the terms before letting them sign the agreement.

The rental agreement should also include what happens if residents want to leave before the agreement ends, including any fees they might have to pay. It should also include the residents’ rights to break a lease as long as they have acceptable reasons.

person holding pen signing paper

Additionally, landlords should put in the lease how much notice resident's need to give if they have to break a lease in this state, as follows:

In Illinois, a fixed-term agreement will automatically end at the expiration date. A tenant has the option to end a fixed-term lease early, without penalty, if the reason for the lease pre-termination is justifiable. 

If the reason is not justifiable, the tenant should pay the remaining rent until the landlord rents the rental to a new tenant. 

Residents need to give the landlord written notice, the proper notice which varies depending on their payment frequency and under any applicable local rules and laws. Some examples of necessary notice are:


  • Week-to-week tenants: 7 days notice
  • Month-to-month tenants: 30 days notice
  • Year-to-year tenants: 60 days notice 

The agreement should also include information about the landlord’s responsibility to find new residents for the rental after receiving notice.

In Illinois landlord has a responsibility to minimize losses and missed rent once receiving notice. This means the landlord must try to find a new tenant instead of making the current tenant continue paying rent until the lease expires. If the landlord finds a  new tenant, the current tenant only has to pay rent for the time the unit was empty and any difference between the new tenant’s lease amount and the current tenant’s lease amount.

In addition, the agreement must also include the tenants’ rights to sublet the unit.

According to Illinois state law, residents cannot sublease without the landlord's written permission. If the landlord allows the sublease, the tenant won't be responsible for all the remaining rent.

family moving in

Unjustified Reasons to Break a Lease in Illinois

Residents in Illinois who break a lease for the following unjustified reasons might have to cover the remaining unpaid rent for the duration, and in certain situations, they may face additional penalties:


  • Job relocation.
  • Buying a house.
  • Backing out of the lease agreement before move-in.

If residents need to end the lease agreement for the above-stated reasons, they can discuss it with the landlord and agree on a mutual termination. If a tenant unjustifiably breaks a lease, the landlord may be able to keep the security deposit

Justified Reasons to Break a Lease in Illinois

Illinois housing providers need to know that residents have the right to break their lease agreement early and not continue to pay rent due to justified reasons, including but not limited to the following:

1. Active Military Service

Military duty permits residents to terminate a lease agreement early without any penalties or obligation for rent. Federal law grants this right to active-duty service members who are moved because of deployment or a permanent change in station. This protection begins when the tenant starts active duty and continues for 30 to 90 days after they are discharged.

2. Early Termination Clause

In Illinois, if your lease has an early termination clause, the tenant may be able to terminate a lease early by paying a penalty. However, housing providers are not obligated to include this clause. Typically, such a clause in a rental lease lets residents break the lease after giving 30-60 days' notice.

two people shaking hands

3. Domestic Violence

According to Illinois law, tenants who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or sexual abuse can end their lease early without any fees or rent obligation. To qualify, tenants must provide evidence of the domestic or sexual violence to their landlord.

4. Uninhabitable Living Conditions

In Illinois, a tenant can end their lease early without facing any charges or rent obligations if the landlord does not make necessary repairs to ensure that the unit remains habitable. To qualify, the following conditions must be met:


  • Health and safety codes are not met.
  • The tenant informs the landlord about the problem.
  • The landlord doesn't make the necessary repairs within a reasonable time.

5. Tenant Death

If an Illinois tenant passes away before their lease ends, their estate can end the lease early with no extra charges. If there are children under 18 years old living with the deceased tenant, the landlord will discuss the details with their new legal guardians.

6. Unenforceable or Voidable Lease

Under Illinois law, a tenant can end a lease early with no extra costs or lease obligation if the lease contains unenforceable clauses or provisions that can make the lease void. For example, this includes situations where the lease was signed under pressure, the tenant is a minor, or if the rental unit is not legal.

7. Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation

Illinois tenants can end the lease early due to landlord harassment or privacy breaches, i.e. interference with quiet enjoyment. However, there needs to be a judicial finding that the landlord harassment took place before the tenant can be absolved of rent for early termination of the lease.

kitchen table

8. Mental or Physical Disability

Illinois tenants can end a lease early without any fees or rent obligation from the landlord if they have a physical or mental disability. Essentially, a tenant with a disability can ask to break the lease if they can't live in a regular rental unit and require specialized care.

9. Landlord Retaliation

Illinois law allows tenants to end their lease early with no extra costs if a landlord retaliates on the tenant. The law forbids landlords from retaliating against tenants for using their legal rights.

Bottom Line

As an Illinois landlord, understanding local laws, especially regarding lease terminations, is crucial. When uncertain, it's wise to consult legal experts to prevent legal complications. 

Consider partnering with a trusted Chicago management firm like Domain Property Management to help you navigate such situations effectively. Should you have inquiries, feel free to reach out to us—we're here to assist you.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and informational purposes only. This blog should not be considered as professional legal advice or a substitution thereof. It is recommended that you seek further legal consultation regarding the contents of this blog. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.

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