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Old 03-08-2007, 04:15 AM
 
11 posts, read 97,220 times
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I have a tenant who moved in May 9, 2005 for a year's lease. Tenant gave notice this morning that he is moving out because his wife and kids just left him and is suing for divorce, i.e. he will not be able to afford the rent. I know he is liable for the whole year's rent, but what are my rights and what should I do?
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Old 03-08-2007, 05:33 AM
 
11,376 posts, read 47,217,060 times
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I hope you meant the lease started in May 2006, not 2005.

Legally, this situation is highly dependent upon the specific terms of the lease and your state's statutes. You may have lease terms which allow you to pursue in a default situation, but there are many other factors which may be in play.

For example, some states have laws allowing tenants to break a residential lease without penalty if they relocate more than 50 miles away for any reason no matter what the lease terms state. The statute overides the lease terms. Many leases don't acknowledge these types of "tenants rights" statutes and it makes for lots of lawyers billable hours arguing which takes precedence; the only people who win (generally) in these circumstances are the billing lawyers and the salaried judges. Especially when you've only got a few months remaining on the lease term.

From a practical standpoint, however, if the fellow doesn't have any resources, then what might you gain from pursuing him in court? It's expensive to sue him for the lease balance or damages, and if there's little possibility of recovery, not worth your effort and energy. Better, perhaps, to hasten the tenant's departure (file & post an eviction as quickly as possible when/if they default) and get your property back into the marketplace and leased out again.

It's not necessarily "fair and just" for the landlord, but one has to take a practical approach to the costs of doing business. I'd be a lot happier with a tenant candid enough to let me know of an upcoming financial situation and vacates the premises than to have one who doesn't let me know of a problem, doesn't pay the lease and drags out his eviction for many months ....
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Old 03-08-2007, 05:52 PM
 
Location: Sometimes Maryland, sometimes NoVA. Depends on the day of the week
1,501 posts, read 11,152,163 times
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May 2005? So he is really only stiffing you on one month (April's) rent? Is it really worth pursueing? My understanding of rental laws in this area (MD/DC/VA) is that once the tenant gives notice, they are only liable for the landlord's losses until the place is rerented. For example, I broke a lease 3 months early for a move in VA (several years back). Even though the job was more than 50 miles away, I couldn't use the moving clause (it only applied to military). But, the apt was rerented a few weeks afterI moved, and I only paid one month extra rent. I don't know if that applies where you are.
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Old 03-08-2007, 06:03 PM
 
1,453 posts, read 4,812,792 times
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Given that his circumstances have changed and it's beyond his control you might have trouble convincing a judge that he's at fault. And, what about his wife? Is her name on the lease; and did she move out? If I were you I'd just let it go. He's got enough problems.
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Old 03-08-2007, 07:41 PM
 
Location: Sometimes Maryland, sometimes NoVA. Depends on the day of the week
1,501 posts, read 11,152,163 times
Reputation: 1132
Wait a second.. did you even have a signed lease with this guy? 5 days ago you asked for sample lease forms. This should have been covered in your lease agreement - which if you had one before, why'd ya need to ask for a new one? I'm confused...
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Old 03-08-2007, 10:50 PM
 
11 posts, read 97,220 times
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Default Re:Breaking the Lease

Keep his deposit & last month's rent, I hope you have this but if you have not better do this next time. Just get a form called residential lease agreement for your new tenant. Get to work finding a new tenant ASAP, and sue for any rent money you lose by having it vacant that isn't covered by his deposit. Remember, the bank does not accept excuses for nonpayment/breach of contract (no matter how sad or creative) and neither should you. You are running a business, not a charity!

Last edited by Trainwreck20; 03-27-2007 at 08:58 AM.. Reason: advertising
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Old 03-09-2007, 07:07 AM
 
11,376 posts, read 47,217,060 times
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Be very careful about witholding a tenant's "damage deposit" for any reason except "damage" far beyond normal "wear and tear".

If the premises are returned to you in good condition per the lease and well documented by the tenant, you may be running afoul of "tenants' rights" laws in your state which require a timely return of the "damage deposit". Some states will even require you to refund more than the deposit as a penalty if it's unreasonably withheld, and the tenants' rights agencies will side mostly with a tenant against you.

You may find yourself at the wrong end of the law and the tenant may have public resources (which will cost you a lot to go up against) to pursue their "damage deposit".

You simply cannot arbitrarily keep the "damage deposit" money because you've got other claims (skipped out on the lease ...) against the tenant. You'll be ordered to refund the "deposit" and told that you can pursue your other claims in civil court.

These aggressive "tenants' rights" state advocacy laws & enforcement have come about in response to historical abuse of "damage deposits" by landlords. Those old abuses to obtain extra money just won't stand up anymore in a lot of places.

As suggested above, you'd be better off to let the guy out and get your property back into the marketplace with a new tenant as soon as possible.
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