Anyone have experience w/ breaking a lease?

  • This is an update to my "venting" thread, but that thread turned into another conversation all together, so I thought I'd start a new one…

    So since my landlord refused to turn the heat on... I have started documenting everything around here. I have a list of all of the tenants rights violations as well as property maintenance code violations... the biggest one of which is that NONE of the smoke detectors in my apartment are functional! I called the fire department and he came over and cited the landlord for the non working smoke detectors as well as a few other fire code issues. I have started communicating with my landlord via ONLY certified return receipt letters (which seems funny cause she lives directly below me - but, that is the best way I think) I gave her my notice to vacate a month ago, which would be 2 months notice, and also offered to do the advertising and showing of the apartment for the purpose of securing a new tenant and she has not responded at all. I'm moving out at the end of July (into my new HOUSE, yayyyy!) and I'm tossing around the idea of not paying my July rent and telling her she can just keep my security deposit for my July rent. I know that if i pay her July's rent she will keep my sec dep anyway....

    But, I'm afraid she'll come after me for the remainder of the lease. So i'm trying to get all the violations documented so that if that happens I have a good case. BLECH! The last thing I need is this lady screwing up my credit!

    Anyway, if anyone out there has any experience with this (personally or professionally) I'd love to hear your thoughts...

  • I've broken a lease before…but my situation was quite a bit different than yours because mine was over a single issue. In my case, the apartment ended up having a bug issue that wasn't apparent prior to moving in. To give you an idea how bad it was, I had to make up a box, pack the box individually and then walk down 4 stories, put the individual box in my car...go back and do the same with each box...because I was afraid bugs would get in the box in that short time. You get the picture.

    Basically, for me it ended up that I threatened to sue if I wasn't allowed to break the lease. And well, I have many lawyer friends who were only too happy to take the case on pro bono if the guy didn't come to his senses and let me out of it. I got half my month's rent back and my full security deposit.

    The one thing I did learn is that here in Maine it is illegal to keep the security deposit as rent and I believe it is illegal to authorize the landlord to do that. So, you might need to check with a lawyer in your area.

    Here in Portland, we also have a legal service that handles this sort of thing for free or super low cost because they help section 8 people. You might see if something like that is available where you are. For me, I just thought it sounded better to threaten to sue by one of the largest law firms in town to drive my point home to my landlord :mad: :mad:.

    Good luck with it all...because even though I had a lot of help and support, it still was a pretty distressing time.

  • How early are you actually breaking the lease? Is the lease end date August 1 or later? Or are you tenant at will?

    I would still pay the July rent, and ask for the specific date you should expect to see your security deposit. There are laws about this that vary by state. I would also let them know that you want an itemized receipt for anything that your security deposit goes toward. I generally do this after I receive my security deposit and say: okay, I got all but $250 back. What did you spend $250 dollars on? And, by the way, they shouldn't take money out o your security deposit for cleaning or painting….cleaning, because they have to do it anyway, whether you leave a mess or not, so that isn't your problem, and most leases provide for normal wear and tear on walls and carpet, which usually means they need to paint and have the carpets cleaned.

    If, for any reason, she does anything to your credit, you can call the credit bureau and dispute it. If it is an owner/landlord, in my experience they generally don't do much credit reporting, if it is a property management company, they usually do report.

    Anyway, hope that helps a little bit. In the long run, you have already bought a house, which will probably help your credit more than this landlord can hurt it...

  • The security deposit can't be used as the last month's rent unless it was specified as the last month's rent in many cases. No matter what, photograph everything when you leave as part of your documentation so you can show the condition of the property when you move out. That way if she does come after you for anything you have proof of the condition of the property also you have the documentation of all the violations, and that you gave her two months notice and offered to advertise the property at that time and she did not act. You can also counter claim for the security deposit if it was not returned.

    Here are some web resources that may be helpful.

  • I have both worked in property management and lived in an apartment myself. I don't think landlords can legally require tenants to pay a "lease break fee". Instead, they re-word it, slightly, and offer the option of paying so and so much money to get out of the lease early, instead of being financially responsible for the remainder of the lease when you're not going to be there. I don't know if this is a factor in your case but it's true for most apartment communities. The early termination option amount would be in your lease somewhere. If you manage to get someone interested in the apartment and they take possession 2 weeks after you move out and you decided NOT to use the early termination option, you only pay 2 weeks of vacancy.
    I would assume that this will be much less than the early termination fee. It's a bit of a gamble to not use the early termination. On the other hand, if all goes well and someone else moves in right away, you can get away with minimal charges. Regarding the deposit, I don't think she can take your rent out of it. I would definitely refer to your lease for this. She should have in there a formal procedure set up for when someone has to move out prior to her lease ending. When is your lease up?

  • As a landlord, I can tell you taking someone to court is a pain in the butt. It is also some work to get it on your credit. If it was my tenant, I would take the security deposit as the last months rent and let it go. But I am pretty laid back. The court would evaluate how much you would have to pay them and once the security deposit is removed from the total I doubt it would be worth it.

  • Also….given all her shortcomings as a landlord, it wouldn't be out of line to demand a waive of the early termination (if there is one).

  • Wow, thanks to everyone for your replies! It does at least help to know I'm not the only one that has gone through something like that…

    My lease is technically through December 1, 2008 so I'm leaving 4 months early. It doesn't say anything in my lease about security deposit as rent, but it does say that it will be returned "on the full and faithful performance of the provisions hereof." So I think that my leaving before Dec 1, warrants them to keep it since i'm not fulfilling the entirety of the lease.

    There is an "abandonment" clause that states that if I abandon the premises - the landlord can re-rent to someone else and hold me responsible for the time that its vacant. Which is fine with me... except that she has declined all offers by me to help her re-rent the place. I'm thinking about advertising the place myself and collecting names and numbers of people interested and giving them to her (certified, return receipt, of course). So if she decided not to pursue them but to pursue me instead I can use it as proof that she did not make an effort to find another tenant.

    There is nothing in the lease about a fee for early termination.

    I have a certified letter waiting for me at the post office, no doubt from my landlord... can't wait to see what it says...


  • Ok, I posted an ad on craigslist - and in the last 10 minutes I've gotten FOUR responses! Wow… I'm just going to print them all out and send them with my next certified mail package.... wow.

  • @Tayda_Lenny:

    Ok, I posted an ad on craigslist - and in the last 10 minutes I've gotten FOUR responses! Wow… I'm just going to print them all out and send them with my next certified mail package.... wow.

    And sounds like she is going to reject anyone that might want to take over the place… which is sad....

  • I know.. the count is now up to SEVEN. Ridiculous. I posted the ad for my townhouse in ann arbor a 1.5 weeks ago and have gotten 4 responses total. I guess it doesn't really matter to me if she rejects them all, I just want proof that she COULD have rerented the place… i think there is something about her only being able to collect from me if she can prove that she TRIED to mitigate damages by rerenting the place. And if i can prove that i tried to help her, and presented her with names/numbers of interested parties, and she turned them all down - i'm thinking it will work in my favor.

  • I hope so… you have been through way too much... renting... problems with your breeder on Lenny... and the move to begin with... but as they say... all will work out in the end..... hang in there....

  • I work in property management for a nationwide company and also have a relative thats a small landlord. Things vary state to state but our leases state that we need 2 months notice. If not there is a lease break fee. For my relative it's not in his lease but I believe he said the law was if he was given 2 months notice he had to accept this by law with out penalty. Check with your state. I thought the security fee could apply to anything. Small note, interest is to be paid out on the security fee.

    Prior to moving out take all pictures of your unit. Also, ask for your landlord to walk the unit with you and sign off so that there no surprises down the road.

    Anyone taking over your apartment will have to meet your landlord requirements(criminal, credit, income requirements?). You will not be able to check these requirements if your landlord has any. If there are no requirements then there can be no refusal of your applicant(fair housing laws apply to everyone preventing discrimination of sex, age, religion, etc.)

    In our state the occupant has the law on their side. If you are doing the best you can(working with landlord, communicating, etc.) the law is on your side. Some states they throw you and your stuff on the curb:eek:

  • thanks everyone for all of your advice and support and sharing of stories. I have sent my last letter to the landlord which details all of the reasons that i'm moving out, and for each reason, cited which NY tenants right or NY property maintenance code she is in violation of. I also reiterated that i have given her 2 months notice and that although she has not made any effort to secure another tenant, that i was still willing to help if she wanted. I gave her all the names/numbers of the people that wrote who were interested in the craigslist ad that I put up. At this point, there's nothing else I can do. she is leaving on vacation on tuesday and i dont' think she's coming back until september. so i'll be gone by then. i may just get a PO box and have my mail all forwarded there until the statute of limitations runs out for her to come after me.

    can't wait to be done with this!

    but thanks again to everyone!

  • Good luck..let us know what happens.

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