What Is a Deed of Surrender?

Deeds of Surrender Explained in Less Than 4 Minutes

Landlords look over a deed of surrender.
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A deed of surrender is a document used to transfer ownership of a property. This generally means the termination of an existing lease. In that case, once the deed of surrender has been signed, the tenant forfeits their right to remain on the property.

Let’s take a look at deeds of surrender, how they work, and what rights are surrendered by landlords and tenants.

Definition and Examples of a Deed of Surrender

A deed of surrender is a legal document that can be used to end a lease. Once executed, the right of occupancy of the property reverts to the original owner. Both the lessor and the lessee must agree to the deed of surrender. If a landlord does not agree, the tenant will remain liable for rent on the property according to the lease terms.

A deed of surrender will also specify conditions that must be met for execution. This may mean leaving the property in a certain way, such as the condition in which you found it. It can also mean that if you’ve missed a rent payment, you agree to repay all funds owed before the deed is signed.

  • Alternate names: Deed of surrender of lease, end of tenancy agreement, agreement for termination of lease

How a Deed of Surrender Works

Let’s say you have leased a space in your local mall for your retail business. After operating for a few years, your small business fails; however, you’re still liable for the lease payments. As a result, you ask your landlord if they would agree to a deed of surrender that would release you from the lease.

If they accept, both you and your landlord will be released from the obligations in the lease. If not, you would still be responsible for making payments on the property according to the lease terms. You would also retain the right to occupy the property instead of surrendering it.

A landlord may agree to a deed of surrender for several reasons—mainly if there is a benefit to getting their property back early. For example, they may want to redevelop their property or occupy it themselves.

Deeds of Surrender for Residential Leases

You can also use a deed of surrender for a residential property in a similar way.

Let’s say you signed a year-long lease to rent an apartment. Halfway through the lease, your company relocates you to a different state. With six months left in your lease, you can ask your landlord to negotiate a deed of surrender. As with commercial leases, landlords are not required to agree to the deed. If such is the case, you’ll need to continue paying rent until the lease is up.

If you’ve sent in a formal letter terminating your lease, even without a deed of surrender, your landlord still has a duty to mitigate damages. This means they must make a good effort to find a new tenant to replace you. If they do so, you won’t be responsible for rent anymore because it’s illegal to collect double rent.

Depending on the language in your lease, you may be able to recoup some of your losses when a landlord refuses to sign a deed of surrender by subletting your residence.

Some landlords may allow you to break your lease early by paying an early termination fee, which is usually equal to two months’ worth of rent.

Is a Deed of Surrender Worth It?

If you find yourself in a position where you’re unable to continue with your lease, it can be worth the effort to attempt a deed of surrender. Depending on the situation of both you and your landlord, a deed of surrender may be a more efficient way to terminate the lease than, say, finding a subletter.

Still, both parties need to agree to a deed of surrender. If you are a tenant in a residential lease, you may be able to make the process more agreeable to your landlord by paying a premium upfront—although many residential leases come with clauses that allow a lessee to pay a flat fee to terminate the lease.

Key Takeaways

  • A deed of surrender is a contract that terminates a lease on a property, and it reverts the right of occupancy from the lessee to the lessor.
  • Both the landlord and the tenant must agree to a deed of surrender.
  • If your landlord is not amenable to a deed of surrender, you’ll still be responsible for paying the rent that is due in most circumstances.