Breaking a contract -- deposit returned

I’m planning on leaving my apartment before the lease is up.

As I understand it, should you give the landlord 1 month’s notice, they must return 1 month’s deposit but can keep the other month deposit as a penalty.

Has this been codified into law? Can someone point me in the right direction? I can’t find anything in the Land Act about it.

I recently did the same thing. TMM’s lawyer advised that once a months notice is given then the full deposit must be returned unless there is damage. Note you may have to wait for full return until utility bills are paid. There is no definition of “damage” so that one may be a point of contention. TMM’s lawyer also pointed out that we might end up in the local mediators if the landlord does not want to return full deposit.

For the utility companies you can call them up and they will give you the bill to date once you provide the meter reading. We did this to avoid a long wait for return of deposit. The utility companies are extremely familiar with the process and give the total over the phone.

Thanks. Can you point to a link to the law that says this? Even if it’s in Chinese. Also for local mediators.

The one card I have on these guys is that they aren’t paying taxes on their rental income, so I can vaguely threaten to report them to the tax office. I also know one of their other tenants that’s planning to leave at the same time and we are swapping notes about negotiations.

Your first point of call should be your contract, see what it says in there, it may give a clause on breaking early. If it says you cannot or will be penalized, ignore it, if it says you can then you’re good.

I tried to find some clear law on this in preparation for meeting my landlord and failed, there are laws however nothing concrete that I, or co-workers, could find that 100% said 1 month’s notice = no issue.

You can call the number on Tsui MaMa’s website, they’re very helpful. Don’t bother with the online query or email as they never replied to me. When I called they gave me the lawyers cell phone number and she was extremely helpful.

Before getting too worked up, are you sure there will be an issue?

No, I just want to make sure all of my bases are covered.

In my experience renting apartments over 25 years here, while TMM is a good resource, it kind of depends on your individual rental contract. It often declares in standard rental contracts that breaking the contract means you lose 1 of the 2 months damage deposit as a penalty. I can’t imagine a landlord passing up on that clause. I wouldn’t expect to get the full deposit back with giving one month’s notice you’re leaving before the lease is up. My two cents anyway.

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Got my deposit back with 1 months notice last year, thanks in part to help from TMM. Your rental contract does not override your rights in law, you can’t sign those away, no matter what your landlord and their friends may try to convince you of. TMM have free lawyers that will advise and get involved if necessary.

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Sure, but breaking your lease isn’t a right certainly.

I’ve broken my lease twice in the past twelve years. Both times I had already renewed for another year and hadn’t caused any problems for the landlord, but circumstances required me to move. Both times I gave at least 30 days notice. Both contracts had a one-month early termination penalty, but in one case they returned my full deposit, the other didn’t. I think it all depends what’s in your lease and whether the landlord decides to enforce it or not.

Ending a lease with one months notice is a right.

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Which can take up to a year if no one agrees … with court sessions. (There is no definition of “damage” so that one may be a point of contention) You always should take lots of picture before and after.

Doesn’t change the law on deposit return with 1 months notice.

Separate issue.

Definitely. I video and photograph every room before moving in and when moving out.

The first thing I see is this

In general, if you wish to end your contract early, you must give 30 days notice and pay one month’s rent as a penalty.

Still looking though.

That’s the old law.


If this is so, how can I find out when it changed? The last time I moved, November 2018, is when I was penalized one month of my deposit, despite my having given 30 days notice.

Mid last year?

Not sure if the deposit change was in that revision of the previous one. Did you question retention of the deposit or just take it for granted that it was OK?

This is the law

Article 11
During the lease period, if any of the following scenarios occurs, making continued residence at rental housing difficult, the lessee may terminate the lease before expiry and the lessor may not demand any compensation:

  1. Illness and accidents make long-term treatment necessary.
  2. Rental housing is ill-fitted for dwelling and needs repair, but the lessor fails to repair within a reasonable period fixed by the lessee.
  3. If, in consequence of circumstances for which the lessee is not responsible, the rental housing is partially destroyed and the remaining part is uninhabitable.
  4. Third parties exercise their rights on the rental housing, so that the lessee cannot use it pursuant to the lease.
    The successor of a deceased lessee may terminate the lease.
    The lessee (pursuant to Paragraph 1) or the successor of a lessee (pursuant to the previous Paragraph) should inform the lessor in writing along with related evidence 30 days before termination.

That doesn’t really seem to add up to “you have a right to terminate your lease with 30 days notice with no compensation”.

There were also some new instructions in 2019:

but I couldn’t find an English translation. I did see this


I’m not totally sure of my reading of that, but it seems to say the renter should give at least one month’s notice, and that those not giving such notice should pay compensation for up to a month’s rent. Which would seem to imply that if you give the notice, compensation isn’t required.

I don’t see this written down so clearly in the other laws though, so not quite sure what it all means.

Could be wrong, but that doesn’t appear to be the latest revision;

You can get free input from the lawyers at if you want clarification (obviously a biased source) of the exact clause on early termination. I got their assistance when breaking my last lease early, and subsequently had my full deposit returned from a very reluctant landlady.

Yeah, not sure exactly what the revision was, though I posted a couple of links above.

That lease breaking fee was in the contract so I assumed it was legal. It stings a bit. However, at the time I wanted to start saving more money and I’d found an apartment perfect for me at literally half the cost. I didn’t want to miss out on it even though I had like 5 months left on my lease. It’s all good because I’ve been enjoying the savings every month.