Can a Seller Back Out of a Rent to Own Agreement?

Rent-to-own agreements are convenient for buyers depending on their circumstances. However, can a seller back out of the agreement? Read on to learn more.

Home Equity
January 12, 2023
 Can a Seller Back Out of a Rent to Own Agreement?

Rent-to-own agreements can be a convenient path to homeownership for buyers who aren’t quite prepared to purchase when they find a home they fall in love with. Instead of buying the home with cash or mortgage financing, buyers may sign a rent-to-own agreement with the current owner. This allows them to move into the house as a renter and make a monthly rent payment that goes toward the cost of the home.

Sometimes, however, situations arise where sellers need a way out of this agreement. So, can a seller back out of a rent-to-own agreement?

There are certain circumstances when home sellers are well within their rights to cancel a rental agreement. If you're a seller considering accepting a few months of rent instead of the total value of your home, here’s what you need to know.

Rent-to-Own Agreement Contracts Explained

Homeowners generally do not need to seek approval to enter a rent-to-own agreement with a buyer, but nevertheless, a legally binding contract is an important piece of the process. The contract protects sellers and buyers in the vent that the plan goes awry. In certain cases, it even provides homeowners with a way to back out of the deal.

There are two popular types of rent-to own agreements:1 

  • Option to purchase – If the agreement carries the “option” to buy, it means that the buyer has the right to decide not to purchase the home at the end of the agreement. They can cancel the agreement without penalty. 
  • Purchase agreement – If the contract has a purchase agreement, it means that the renter has agreed beforehand to purchase the house. Except in some very specific situations, the renter will have to go through with the purchase,

Rent-to-Own Contract Terms

Rent-to-own contracts generally include the following items:2

  • Monthly rent amount – Under rent-to-own contracts, the buyer is obligated to pay a monthly payment, which is generally higher than the home’s value. The excess amount is credited toward the purchase price of the home and deducted when the renter decides to exercise their purchase option. 
  • Option fee – This is a fee that buyers pay to open the rent-to-own agreement. It secures their right to buy the home at the end of the agreement if they have abided by all contract clauses. 
  • Maintenance responsibilities – In rent-to-own situations, the buyer assumes a number of maintenance responsibilities. These are outlined in the contract. 
  • Path to ownership – The rent-to-own contract should have clear rules for how the buyer can begin the ownership process. 
  • Pet policy – As in a typical renting situation, the seller is entitled to impose a pet policy that restricts pets to certain animals or doesn't allow them at all. 

The contract should also discuss how the purchase price was determined. Generally, they’ll feature an array of other clauses that could allow the seller to back out of the deal if the buyer fails to meet them. 

Learn more about Truehold's flexible sale-leaseback

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When Can a Seller Back Out of a Rent-to-Own Agreement?

The short answer to the question, “can a seller back out of a rent-to-own agreement” is yes. That said, they are generally restricted from doing so unless the buyer breaks any of the clauses in the rental agreement.

Contract conditions and clauses can vary from case to case. Rent-to-own agreements can be quite strict and are usually to the seller's benefit. In fact, rent-to-own contracts may be cancelled if a buyer fails to meet any of the obligations stated therein.1

Sellers may be able to back out of a rent-to-own agreement if buyers break any of the following common clauses: 

  • Financing approval – Many rent-to-agreements are contingent upon the buyer getting approved for mortgage funding, usually within 30 days. If the buyer cannot secure a mortgage, the seller may back out of the deal.
  • Late payments – If a buyer fails to make rent payments, the seller may be able to cancel the lease agreement. Sellers may be able to exercise this right if tenants are late or fail to pay one or more payments.
  • Maintenance obligations – Rent-to-own agreements generally lay the responsibility for certain maintenance obligations at the feet of the prospective buyer. If a prospective buyer fails to meet those obligations within the lease period, the seller could be within their rights to back out of the agreement. 

Get Your Hands On Your Equity With Truehold

Your home is an investment and can be a ready source of cash if you can access your equity. But sometimes, cashing out your home’s value isn’t as simple as it sounds, which is why you should consider other arrangements, such as a rent back agreement.

That’s where Truehold comes in. With our Sale-Leaseback, you can sell your house to Truehold, continue living at home as a renter, and unlock your equity to use as down payment on a new home, pay off old debt, or achieve your other financial goals.

Are you looking for a way to access your equity without giving up the house you love? Get in touch with us today to get started on your residential leaseback agreement.


1. Contract Counsel. Rent-To-Own Contract: How They Work, What To Know. 

2. Investopedia. Rent-to-Own Homes: How the Process Works. 

Lucas Grohn headshot
Written by
Lucas Grohn
Senior Manager of Sales at Truehold - A Thought-Leader in Real Estate
Lucas Grohn brings over a decade of real estate expertise to his role, where he guides a team dedicated to innovative sales strategies. Known for his thought leadership and diverse experience, from managing brokerage operations to training agents at top firms, Lucas covers a broad span of real estate content for Truehold.
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Truehold's blog is committed to delivering timely and pertinent insights in real estate and finance, purely for educational and informational purposes. Crafted by experts, our content is thoroughly reviewed to guarantee its accuracy and dependability. Although designed to enlighten and engage, our articles are not intended as financial advice and should not be the sole basis for financial decisions. Our stringent editorial practices ensure the integrity of our content, empowering our readers with valuable knowledge.

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