Resource provisioning is one of the main challenges in large-scale distributed systems such as federated Grids. Recently, many resource management systems in these environments have started to use the lease abstraction and virtual machines (VMs) for resource provisioning. In the large-scale distributed systems, resource providers serve requests from external users along with their own local users. The problem arises when there is not sufficient resources for local users, who have higher priority than external ones, and need resources urgently. This problem could be solved by preempting VM-based leases from external users and allocating them to the local ones. However, preempting VM-based leases entails side effects in terms of overhead time as well as increasing makespan of external requests. In this paper, we model the overhead of preempting VMs. Then, to reduce the impact of these side effects, we propose and compare several policies that determine the proper set of lease(s) for preemption. We evaluate the proposed policies through simulation as well as real experimentation in the context of InterGrid under different working conditions. Evaluation results demonstrate that the proposed preemption policies serve up to 72% more local requests without increasing the rejection ratio of external requests. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.