Landlord wants tenants to leave before lease expires

Question: I own two houses on the same street. I live in one and rent out the other. The tenants in the rental house have seven months left on their lease. I would like to move my wife’s mother into the rental house so she can move out of my house. Will I be able to do that?

Answer: A lease is an agreement that is binding on all parties to it, tenant and landlord. Some leases have “escape clauses” that allow either party to cancel upon giving notice, typically 30 days. If the lease agreement you used for this rental does not include an escape clause, you have no general right to unilaterally cancel the lease.

You could try to persuade the tenant to voluntarily terminate the lease and voluntarily vacate. You should expect that you will need to offer a financial or other incentive to obtain the tenant’s consent. Your local mediation program can help in the process to negotiate a mutual termination.

Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a mediation service based in Sunnyvale, Calif. To submit a question, go to