Breaking a Lease in Domestic Violence Situations

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If you move out of a rented home before the lease ends you’ll probably have to pay the rent through the end of the lease. If you want to move because of incidents of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault, Michigan law lets you end your lease early to move to a safe location. You can do this without having to pay rent through the end of the lease. This is true if you entered, renewed, or renegotiated your lease after October 5, 2010.

How to Get an Early Release

There are steps you need to take to end your lease early. First, send your landlord written notice. This is a letter that says you need to end your lease. Also send a copy of a document that shows you or your child are at risk if you stay in your home. Send these by certified mail. Keep the receipt you get back as proof you mailed the letter.

The Letter to Your Landlord

The letter you send your landlord needs to include specific information. Tell your landlord your name and address, and write:

“I am a tenant at [your address]. I have a reasonable apprehension of present danger to [myself or my child] from [domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault]. This is notice that I am seeking an early release from my rental obligation under MCL 554.601b.”

The letter should also include a brief description of the documentation you’re sending with it.

Documentation of Risk

Along with the letter, send your landlord documentation showing that you or your child is at risk if you don’t move. Any of the following documents are acceptable: 

  • A personal protection order (PPO) against the person you fear (or a similar protection order from another state)

  • An order in a child protection case removing the person you fear from your home

  • An order that says the person you fear can’t have contact with you, such as a probation order, a conditional release order, or a parole order

  • A police report, if charges were filed against the person you fear no more than 14 days before you send the notice to your landlord
  • If it has been more than 14 days since the charges were filed, a police report and a report from a qualified third party confirming the present danger to you


  • A report from a qualified third party

A qualified third party can be one of the following:

  • A sexual assault or domestic violence counselor

  • A licensed health professional, such as a doctor, a nurse, or a psychiatrist

  • A mental health professional, such as a counselor, a therapist, or a psychologist

  • A clergy member affiliated with a tax exempt religious institution that’s listed in a telephone book

You can download and print a blank Third Party Report form to fill out with your qualified third party.

After You Notify Your Landlord

You must pay one more month of rent after you notify your landlord that you need an early release. Your release is not effective until you move out.

If you give your landlord notice in January and move out before the month ends, you are responsible for paying rent for January and February.

If you get an early release, you may lose rent you’ve pre-paid. If you paid your last month’s rent when you moved in, you may not get it back. Your pre-paid rent could be applied towards the one month's rent you have to pay after you move out. You may want to talk to a lawyer if this applies to you. If you need a lawyer and have low income, you may qualify for free legal help. Whether or not you have low income, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

If you’re leasing your home with other tenants who are listed on the lease, they will not get the early release. They will probably be responsible for all the rent after you move out.

Your Forwarding Address

You still have to leave the rental home in good condition and give your landlord your forwarding address when you move out. Getting an early release will not affect your security deposit. However, there may be other reasons why you might not get your security deposit back. To learn about getting your security deposit back please see Security Deposit Help for Tenants.

You may want to use a Post Office Box for your forwarding address. Your landlord can’t intentionally give your forwarding address to the person you fear. However, your landlord can disclose your forwarding address for regular business purposes. The person you fear might be able to get your new address by having someone else ask for it or by asking for it from someone your landlord can release it to. Using a P.O. Box can help keep your new address safe from the person you fear.

Help Is Available

If you are being threatened or hurt, it is not your fault. Violence is not a way to resolve any problem. There are people who can help you figure out your options. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, or your local domestic violence agency for help in making a personalized safety plan. You can search for a domestic violence agency in your county in Community Services. In most situations, your local domestic violence agency can work with you without telling anyone about you or about what you tell them.

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