What Do I Need To Pay When I Break My Lease Four Months Early?

Shannon in Alabama recently got engaged, and she’ll be moving into the house her fiancé owns after the wedding in December. The problem is her current place, which she just leased in April. She wrote to Consumerist for help figuring out what to do, since her landlord doesn’t seem too clear on the procedures, either.

In April 2010, I signed a one year lease for a house, paying a month’s
worth of rent as a security deposit. I got engaged in October, and we
are going to be married in December. I have been an upstanding
tenant, paying on time, not causing any problems, even making small,
inexpensive upgrades to the property (with her permission of course).
I emailed the landlord:

“I wanted to let you know that I am getting married on December 9th!
My fiance owns his own house, so we will be moving up there
afterwards. I plan to be completely out of the house by December
31st. I have enjoyed living in the house, it’s a great little house,
other than the heating and a/c problems, and in a great location.

Please let me know what your procedure is for moving out, when you
would like to do a walkthrough, and what the penalty for breaking the
lease is. I read the lease agreement but it didn’t really state any
specifics.

Thank you so much for leasing to me and I know you will have no
problem renting it out again!”

Her response:

“Congratulations on your upcoming marriage, on the other hand we are
sorry to lose you as a tenant. Your lease runs through the end of
April. We normally don’t allow anyone to break their lease. With
your circumstance if you will pay two months (January and February)
extra rent, we will allow you to break the lease. This is our
standard exit policy. It is very unlikely that we won’t rent the
house during these two months, but if we don’t you will be responsible
for the rent through April.”

I’m confused. Is she letting me out of the lease except for paying
January and February’s rent, or am I having to pay until she rents it
out? What about my security deposit, will I lose that? What are my
rights? I don’t want to pay her any more or any less than I should,
but I’m just not sure what that should be.

As a side note, the heating and a/c problems started at the end of
July, where I used to enjoy the temperature in my house staying at the
thermostat setting, I had to deal with temps that never got below 80
until recently (I live in AL), and now I deal with temperatures in my
house dropping into the low 60s because the heat won’t pull. I have
complained many times, they have had a/c guys out there many different
times, and they say they can’t find the problem so it must be all in
my head.

If you want to know what your landlord meant, there’s only one sure way to find out: ask her for clarification. Call or e-mail and say, “I want to be absolutely clear on what happens if I break the lease. Do I forfeit my deposit? If I find a new tenant to occupy the house beginning in January or February, do I have to pay rent for that month?” xAsk direct questions to clear up the things you don’t understand. Asking what seem like stupid questions is better than paying rent when you don’t need to.

Consulting a lawyer with some knowledge of landlord-tenant law in Alabama would be helpful–or a local housing authority, the state attorney general’s office, or even a public librarian might be able to help you find the specific laws that relate to breaking a lease.

Comments

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  1. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Stipulations for this should be in your lease, and if they aren’t well then you aren’t legally obligated to do anything.

    In my personal experience, previous leases have required 2 months rent in addition to a more reasonable ETF (usually $50 – $75). When I knew I was going to have to move and faced a lease issue, I just renewed for a shorter period of time. I got lucky and moved only a month early.

    tl;dr: Read your lease!

    • Dover says:

      If there’s no stipulation, wouldn’t the lessee be required to fulfill the terms of the contract (continue paying rent until the lease is up) unless an alternative is agreed upon? Otherwise, the landlord could come after them for breech of contract.

      • Ce J says:

        Doveroftke is correct. If there are no provisions for breaking the lease, you are at the will of the landlord, although the landlord is required to mitigate damages (look for a new tenant).

        • RandomHookup says:

          If not covered in the lease, then you have to look at local laws and then determine what can happen.

          Usually the landlord can charge you for any month covered by your lease that the unit isn’t rented, but must make a good faith effort to rent the apartment. Often, it’s faster to just negotiate a settlement — e.g., you have 6 months on lease, you negotiate to pay 2 months and that’s it. The landlord can take his or her time to rent the place and you know you don’t have to worry if the landlord can’t get it rented quickly.

      • Sammich says:

        That’s the typical situation, but not always true. All depends on what Alabama state laws have to say on the issue.

    • Gulliver says:

      If there is nothing regarding ending the lease early the tenant would be on the hook for the entire contract term. The landlord must make reasonable efforts to mitigate damages (ads to rent the place). The tenant will be responsible for those costs. If they can re lease the home the landlord can not “double dip”.

  2. Dover says:

    I think she wants you to pay until she rents the place out but not less than January and February.

    • kt says:

      It’s a pretty standard policy. You owe the rent until the end of the lease which is April. They are being nice and asking for 2 months and if they are able to rent the apartment before the end of the lease they will not charge you for the last 2 months. They will do a walk through when the apartment is empty (take pictures) and that will determine what damages there are and how much of the security you get back.

  3. TooManyHobbies says:

    It seems pretty clear. They’re holding you to two month’s rent after leaving as an early exit penalty. If they rent the property in that time (starting by March I’d assume) they’ll let you out of the remaining 2 months, otherwise not.

    I’m willing to bet that this is exactly spelled out in the lease contract that you signed, and they’re following it exactly. I doubt you have any recourse.

    Check the contract regarding the security deposit. I would think you would get it back, but it depends on the contract.

    The heat/AC problems have nothing to do with this.

    • RunawayJim says:

      The security deposit should go back to her less any damages (which is usually nothing if she was a good tenant).

      The heat and AC issues could very well help her out of the lease. I don’t know about AL, but in the northeast, it’s typically illegal to rent an apartment in the winter without working heat. So if the landlord has given up trying to get the heating issue fixed, the landlord could be in violation of the lease (and maybe even the law) and she could get out of the lease that way (though that would require legal action).

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      The landlord can’t double dip though. If the current tenant pays for Jan/Feb and the owner finds a new tenant during that time they can’t collect rent from the new tenant and keep the payments from the current tenant.

      • njack says:

        I think this varies by state/county/city, but yes, the landlord cannot double dip. If the tenant breaks the lease and the stipulated penalty is 2 months rent then its not really double dipping, its the fee for breaking the lease. In that case, it is likely the tenant would at least receive the deposit back.

    • GMFish says:

      It seems pretty clear.

      It’s pretty clear to me too. A lease is an agreement for a set time. Just as the landlord can’t arbitrary kick you out early, you can’t simply leave early.

    • njack says:

      The heating and a/c comment confused me. I saw the comment of ‘on a side note’ which to me implied she mentioned it before. Regardless, it has no bearing in this situation.

    • VouxCroux says:

      THat’s a pretty standard arrangement actually. Your security deposit is usually separate and is not used as rent except if you just don’t pay it. It’s held separately to pay for damages, cleaning, etc. tasks involved in turning the apartment around.

    • TheSurlyOne says:

      First of all, I agree she should carefully read her lease to see what is or isn’t documented regarding the early termination penalties and security deposit.

      IF the lease doesn’t clearly state the penalty (or that a penalty exists for early termination), there may be no legal way for the landlord to charge the penalties she mentioned in her reply email! If this is a small town and the landlord only owns this single rental property, it’s very possible that the specific penalties for early lease termination aren’t included! We are talking about the South (I’m in Georgia) and my grandmother owns a small house in her neighborhood that she rents out. My grandparents bought it in 1992 when the owner died and until I started handling all my grandma’s financial and legal affairs (she’s 85 and in poor health), no paper documentation of any rental or lease agreement had ever existed! The most recent tenants moved in two months ago and they were the first ever to sign a lease…

      So, while there may be no legally enforceable early termination fee based on the lease document itself, I agree that two months is both customary and fair for early lease terminations. Paying for January and February is the appropriate thing to do, even if it’s not legally documented.

      If the landlord has a security deposit equivalent to one month’s rent, she should insist on applying that to the penalty amount, meaning only one month of additional rent will be due on move out. BUT, to do that, she should insist on a move-out walk-thru with the landlord when she leaves and get their sign-off that the house is in acceptable condition and she qualifies for the return of the security deposit! In any case, a move-out walk-thru is very important for any renter!

      Per the landlord’s response, unless it states otherwise in the lease, she can’t legally charge you for March or April if she doesn’t have a new renter by then!!! She said:

      “We normally don’t allow anyone to break their lease. With your circumstance if you will pay two months (January and February) extra rent, we will allow you to break the lease. This is our
      standard exit policy.”

      If you pay two months additional rent, they will allow you to break the lease….end of story. They can’t add conditions such as how long it might take for the house to be rented again….(unless those exact conditions are in the original signed lease doc)!!!

      BTW, if the situation were to take a litigious turn, the heating and A/C problems could possibly be used to claim the landlord violated the lease agreement rendering it void! (Again, if there is any language about maintenance, etc. in the lease).

  4. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    Seems she will have to pay 2 months of rent to break her lease, if I am reading it correctly. If this is correct, then she is getting off easily. Many landlords would hold you responsible till the lease is up. It’s a binding contract…

    I would think, however, that since you wre a good tenant, they would let you out of the rest of the lease if YOU were to find a suitable tenant. The owner is loosing money because you’ve broken your lease; then they will have to spend additional money to re-rent the apartment.

    I don’t believe the heating / cooling issue enters into this in any way.

    As far as the security deposit that would depend on your local laws, your lease, and the landlord. Call them and ask.

    • keith4298 says:

      Failure to Return: If the landlord does not refund the entire deposit, the landlord, within 35 days after termination of the tenancy, must provide the tenant with an itemized list of amounts withheld. If the landlord fails to mail a timely refund or accounting within the 35 day period, the landlord must pay the tenant double the amount of the deposit
      http://www.rentlaw.com/dep/aldeposit.htm

    • LACubsFan says:

      She owes 4 months of rent, unless they can rent the place early.

    • RandomHookup says:

      She’s not really letting her out of the lease. The landlord said you’ll have to pay for 2 months for breaking the lease and then the additional 2 months if they can’t rent it then. That’s not much of a break considering that if you leave in most jurisdictions, you can only be held accountable for the rent until the landlord actually gets a new tenant.

  5. RunawayJim says:

    She’s lucky that her landlord would let her out at all, even if she had to pay 2 months extra. I had a landlord who treated me really well and who liked me as a tenant (I did a lot of repairs for them). When we bought our house, we had about 6 months left on our lease because she made us renew the lease for another year and not go month-to-month, which I had asked about doing. She wouldn’t let us out of our lease and there wasn’t really anything we could do about it. A lease is a legally binding contract that says you are expected to live there for the specified amount of time, paying the rent as specified. If you break the lease, the landlord can take you to court for the remainder of it.

    Now, if the landlord was particularly bad and you could find something that they’ve done to break the lease, you can probably argue your way out of it. But that doesn’t sound like an option here. The only real option would be to do what I had to do and find someone to sublet your apartment for the remainder of the lease.

    • RandomHookup says:

      The way I have seen lawyers approach this issue — landlords have to make a good faith effort to rent out the property and I’ve seen it challenged that the landlord did enough. It’s human nature to sit back because you have guaranteed rent coming in from the leasee and a good lawyer will challenge that the landlord did enough such as advertising heavily, getting a real estate firm involved, lowering the rent to match the market.

  6. makreljohnson says:

    Pretty straight forward:
    The penalty to break is 2 months rent. The owner will then attempt to rent to a new tenant and until it is rented, or the lease contract expires, the OP is responsible to pay through the end of the contract.

    Best Case, OP pays 2 extra months and the owner gets a new tenant immediately.
    Worst case, owner can’t find a new tenant and OP pays until lease is up whether living there or not.

    It’s actually a common approach to a rental house agreement.

  7. FatLynn says:

    I know nothing about Alabama law, but in some states, once you have given notice, the landlord has to show that she has made a genuine effort to find a replacement tenant, and failed, in order to come after you for rent.

    That said…if she’s letting you out with only two months penalty, I would pay what she asks, play nice, and move on.

  8. tehbob says:

    Where is the confusion here and what is the issue? You should get your security deposit back, your landlord doesnt have a right to just take it just because (thought they might try too).

    Honestly the deal sounds like this. They will require you to pay two months rent out of the four months you owe on your contract. During that time they will attempt to find another tenet. If they find another one, you will not have to pay for the last two months of rent. If they cannot find another one, you will have to pay for all four months of your rent.

    Honestly this sounds like a fair deal, however you need to check your contract to see what it says about this. It probably spells out what the land lord is saying, as the land lord says its their standard policy. Just check and make sure to be sure they arnt pulling one on you.

  9. Kevin says:

    In contracts, context is everything. Despite what our landlord said and the paperwork she failed to get us to sign after the fact in agreement to her made up terms, there was nothing in the lease that let her charge us any penalty for breaking the lease early. E-mail went nowhere but a certified letter, signed and dated, with the promise of legal action got us the remainder of our deposit back.

    In other words, it depends on the lease.

    • lemur says:

      Well, absent any specific language in the lease, most jurisdictions I’ve been in just won’t let you break a lease early. It is a contract and you have to honor it to the end.

      However, they also state that if the landlord is able to rent the place again, they have to release you of your contractual obligation. No double dipping. They are still allowed to charge for expenses incurred to re-rent the place.

  10. Megalomania says:

    The policy (as stated by the landlord in the language above at least) is that she will pay rent in December, January, and February. If they have found a new tenant who will be paying rent in March and April, they’ll cut you free of the obligation to pay for the apartment for the last two months. You will get your deposit back.

    That said, it’s probably better to start looking for a sublet. If you find someone willing to pay you half of the cost of the apartment starting in December, you come out slightly ahead of what the landlord would at best give you, and anything more than half is pure “profit” based on the situation.

    The other alternative is to find some way in which the landlord broke the terms of the lease agreement first, and either use that to buck the lease entirely or negotiate more favorable terms. Personally, if there’s nothing so flagrant that you don’t already feel they’ve broken the lease then I would not take that option.

  11. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    Here’s how it is spelled out in my lease: a) One extra month of rent, and b) forfeit all rent concessions. IOW my rent is credited $80 per month from the full going rate for the apt. So I’ll have to pay $80 X however many months I end up staying, plus an additional month’s rent.

    It’ll be costly, but then I knew I’d be facing that going in. Was unable to find a place with less than a year’s lease when my house flooded. At least got a place where I won’t be forced to continue paying on until a new tenant is found or to the end of the contract.

    Moral of the story: Unless you’re certain you plan on living in a place until your dying day, figure out upfront how much it’ll cost to get out of there when the time comes.

    • Tim says:

      Well, not exactly. Just don’t sign leases for more than a year. I’ve never seen a residential lease for more than 13 months, so it’s not much of a problem. If you sign an annual lease, you’re only obligated to pay your rent times 12, nothing more.

  12. teke367 says:

    Like most people here, I read it as, “no matter what, she has to pay two months rent, and she is responsible to pay rent for any amount of time past two months where the home goes unrented, if at all.” I think the landlord didn’t word it well at the end, but if they are that confident that they would rent the home out in two months, perhaps they didn’t feel the need to clarify.

    She should definitely read her lease, perhaps she is allow to sublet the home, even if she can only rent the home for less than she is paying for four months, overall if would cost less. Also, some places let you get out of breaking a lease if you find a suitable replacement, and the landlords don’t actually have to do any work to get that home filled.

  13. aloria says:

    AFAIK, the worst case scenario for any lease is forfeit deposit and have to keep paying rent until lease is over or they find a new tenant. Some leases may be more lenient but if yours is unclear I would prepare for the worst case scenario.

    • Mom says:

      Actually, if she’s continuing to pay rent, she should get her deposit back. The deposit is for damage to the apartment and unpaid rent, not as penalty money for moving out too soon.

  14. TouchMyMonkey says:

    Might as well keep the place. Of course, if you were to find an acceptable tenant, most landlords would let you out. That’s all they really care about, after all.

  15. ssaoi says:

    Don’t call if you can avoid it! Keep everything on email.

  16. Tim says:

    I highly doubt that the state has any laws regarding this. Very few states have much of anything in the way of landlord-tenant laws, except maybe requiring that apartments have toilets and smoke detectors.

    In that case, it’s all up to what’s in the lease. It might say you can move out without a penalty. It might say you can move out early, but you have to pay a penalty. It might have no such clause, in which case you’re obligated to pay until April, unless you work something out to void that part of the lease.

    You’re mostly at your landlord’s mercy here, but you might be able to negotiate a favorable penalty or no penalty. One popular move is to help her find a new tenant. Maybe you know someone from work, or a friend, or you could just get the word out. This might make her want to lower your penalty or get rid of it.

    You might also want to offer to pay the rent (or some percentage thereof) until she finds another tenant.

  17. makabe says:

    In the property management company I work for, the policy is that the resident breaking a lease is responsible for the rent until the unit is rerented or the lease is over, whichever comes first. Usually this is just a matter of weeks, but in slow times has extended into a 2nd month. Telling a resident they are responsible for a flat extra two month’s rent is bogus and a money grab. As an earlier commenter said, read your lease and talk to the manager.

  18. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    If no specifics exist on breaking the lease within the lease, then she can break it penalty-free

    • lemur says:

      No. If the lease says nothing, then it means she’s responsible for rent until the end of the lease.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I’m sure state law designate renter’s rights that supercede this agreement. And since the agreement didn’t state otherwise, she has not waived her rights.

        But isn’t this the same arguement we had earlier about mortgage agreements? If you ditch your home, you lose it and all payments made. If you ditch your rental, you lose it.

        • thompson says:

          Umm. No. Also, [citation needed].

          For the most part, lease agreements are covered by a state’s general laws of contract. This includes the requirement for the non-breaching party to mitigate damages. Therefore, the breaching party is liable to pay rent until the end of the contract/lease term, but the landlord must make a good faith attempt at renting the place out. If the OP was paying $1000/mo, and the landlord can only find someone to pay $800/mo, then the OP would be liable for the $200 difference until the conclusion of the lease.

          AFAIK, the only state laws on leases tend to revolve around required terms, notices, etc. Unless you can point me to a particular state law, I’d say you’re dead wrong.

    • njack says:

      This is not the case, if there is no provision then she is obligated to pay out the lease. The landlord can’t double dip though, so if they get someone to move in the penalty should only be for the time the house was vacant.

      However, I would be somewhat surprised if the lease did not have a provision in it. Even the lease templates you can find online or at Office Depot and such have a break lease provision section.

    • gparlett says:

      This is the opposite of what is true.

    • tbax929 says:

      A lease is a contract. If there’s nothing in that contract about what the penalty is for breaking it, she can be held liable for the rent for the remainder of the contract.

      The do, however, have to make an attempt to mitigate their damages, i.e. trying to rent it out to someone else.

    • ryder28910 says:

      You could not be any more incorrect.

  19. jesirose says:

    I’m facing a similar situation. The BF and I are looking for a house, but any lease or buy option, they want you to move in within 30 days. However, the apartments here (TX) ALL require 60 days notice of your move out – even month to month. So I basically have to tell the apartment we’re not renewing, and HOPE we find the right place for us within those 60 days! It’s a crap situation. Going from apartment to apartment was fine. Trying to get into a house is a nightmare.

    Do people really tell their old place they’re moving out without securing a new place first? And why are all these landlords wait until the tenant has moved out to start advertising the place? I feel like they’re setting themselves up to get less responsible people by demanding move in so quickly. I realize they want the rent, but if they advertise it before the move out they can at least get people interested – people who plan ahead! (I realize they can’t show it while someone lives there, but photos and descriptions are good enough to garner interest)

    • echoparkgal says:

      My advice to you is to 1.) document every conversation in writing – even if you have to reiterate a verbal conversation in an email or letter – maintain a paper trail, 2.) start the process of either subleasing or finding a replacement tenant now – like house open houses, you CAN show an apartment that is currently occupied if you give/get permission 3.) know your state laws and city ordinances for renters – if your city/state demands landlords keep deposits in a interest accruing account, you should know this, if there are specific periods of time with which tenants and landlords have to respond to queries/actions, know this 4.) start repairs/paint now and make sure your unit looks just like the way you first entered it or better 5.) talk to neighbors to see if landlord has a history of no deposit returns/harrassment/shady business practices and 6.) prepare to be extremely professional about future interactions with your landlord – don’t forget that this is a business at the end of the day. Basically the more you anticipate and prepare, the more you will be able to deal with the bullshit when you really just want to move forward.

      Most landlords realize the 60 day notice is just a guideline like “hey we are thinking of moving out in 2 months, fyi”. Also these advanced notice periods are totally antiquated – people are a lot more mobile these days. If you have a small property management company, you may be able to have a reasonable discussion about it. Otherwise, then you may just have to move out your apt early or use it as storage during your first month at the house.

      My brother recently moved to LA from Houston and pretty much they held him liable for the fulll year. Good luck.

    • gaya2081 says:

      or you could just notify them when you find a place and pay the extra month. If you buy, it generally take a month from offer accepted to close, then you have a month to paint, fix it up etc.
      As far as renting, every place I have found have been flexible with me moving in 30 days after I apply-espcially if it is a bigger place-I use the second half of the 60 days to actually move.

    • njack says:

      Many landlords won’t advertise the place until it is vacant because they never really know the condition they are going to get the place back in. Sure they have your deposit as recourse but that doesn’t help them get the work done any faster. It would suck for a person to rent a place and expect to move in and then be told they have to wait another week or so due to painting, carpet, other repairs that may need to happen. 60 days notice seems a bit on the high side, I only require 30 days on my rentals.

  20. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    If it’s not spelled out in the lease, I am guessing you would owe the landlord rent through the end of your lease. It doesn’t matter how awesome of a tenant you were or that you A/C never got below 80. Those are separate issues from trying to break a legal contract.

  21. heismanpat says:

    Whenever I signed a lease, I made damn sure they had a reasonable policy for terminating a lease early. I can’t fathom why anyone would sign a lease without doing this. Otherwise, you could easily find yourself on the hook for paying out the entire term of the lease. What does the OP think a lease is, exactly? Among other things, it’s a promise to pay rent for the entire period stipulated.

  22. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Over Christmas/New Years is a bad time for the landlord to find a new tenant. The penalty is reasonable and typical.

  23. Scuba Steve says:

    Check the Contract. Each Paragraph should be initialed by the main lease holder, which you’d be responsible for if you had signed on the lease.

    • lemur says:

      Which precise article of law conditions the validity of a lease contract on each paragraph being signed?

      • Scuba Steve says:

        Not sure, I’m just stating what I do, since I had to Initial every rule, stipulation, and anyone who would be living here had to sign at the end as well.

        It had very clear rules about Breaking the lease. 4 months rent, and I could stay 2 of those months.

    • EverCynicalTHX says:

      Sorry but that’s just plain wrong.

  24. u1itn0w2day says:

    If it’s an individually owned property the OP might stand a chance of negotiating a release with no penalty. If corporate owned they probably up the creek. I’ve heard stories of people needing an early out were upto date on rent and had left first,last and deposit. The apartment/property owners sent debt collectors after them and reported the no payment of rent on their credit history.

  25. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    I’d ask the landlord if finding a sublet would release you from all financial obligation. They can clean the house with some of your deposit money; no sense in paying for months that there is someone else living in the house.
    Landlord/tenant laws in ‘Bama are intentionally vague. It’s all up the contract signed.

  26. shepd says:

    This is simple, you pay for 4 months of rent unless you can find a tenant to replace you earlier. If the landlord finds one instead, you’ll get the same deal. Of course, the landlord won’t be arsed until 1 or 2 months before the end of the lease.

    You will not lose your security deposit unless you broke stuff.

  27. JiminyChristmas says:

    The landlord isn’t really letting the OP out of anything. They are still making her responsible for paying for the full term of the lease. She’s still on the hook for the remainder of the lease if a new tenant isn’t found. If a new tenant is found then the OP is free and clear because the landlord can’t charge them both for the same apartment. The only way the current offer would be a decent deal for the OP is if the 2-month penalty actually terminated the lease early and she was no longer obligated to cover March and April.

    As someone else mentioned, and this may vary by state, if you break the lease and vacate the apartment the landlord is obligated to make a good faith effort to find a new tenant. They can’t let the place sit empty and ring you up for rent for the remainder of the lease.

    If I were the OP I would let the landlord know I was vacating the apartment prior to Dec. 31 so they can start looking for someone else to move in in January. I would certainly not pay a two-month “penalty” that wouldn’t actually terminate the lease early. If January arrives and there’s no new tenant, I would pay for January. Same with February. There’s no reason to advance the landlord two months of rent payments for nothing in return.

    • EverCynicalTHX says:

      I agree, unless there’s some penalty explicitly spelled out in the lease you are usually obligated to pay rent until the lease expires or it is rented to another party.

      Why should you pay for 2 months if it might end up rented within 30 days?

      Leaving the place clean and free from damage will help it rent faster if fewer repairs are needed also.

  28. whosyer12 says:

    I’d offer up something fair—say a months extra rent + your deposit and askto be let out of the lease–in writing. If not accepted-I’d advise the landlord that you’ll be allowing your homeless, crack addicted cousin and family to live there thru the term of the lease.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      That’s what the security deposit is for.

    • njack says:

      That would likely be a violation of the lease as the lease likely has a stipulation that the signer of the lease is leasing it as their residence and not for their criminal family members.

  29. ovalseven says:

    The part where the landlord says “we will allow you to break the lease” makes no sense. Her lease is up in April and they’re asking her to pay up to April unless the house is rented sooner. That’s standard procedure.

    My advice as a residential property manager: Don’t pay for any months in advance unless your lease says you have to. The only thing you’re “buying” is time for them to find a new tenant. If they have somebody who wants to rent that house in January or February, you’ll save that money. And, since it’s illegal to collect rent from different tenants during the same time period, you’ll avoid giving the next possible tenant free rent at your expense.

    • Alessar says:

      I agree. When you are being allowed to break a lease and a penalty is specified – such as 2 months rent – that is it. The lease is then broken. If you are not allowed to break a lease then you are responsible for rental until the end of the term.

      What I am used to seeing (in MI) is the penalty is 1 month’s rent, +cost of state-law required repainting and cleaning.

      An alternative to breaking a lease, however, is to reassign it (sub let). Because the lease is assumed, the landlord isn’t required to come in and do a cleaning/painting so it’s no extra cost. In fact if the new tenant renews they’re still off the hook for that.

      So my advice to the OP is try to find someone to sublet to and don’t actually break your lease – transfer it.

  30. UnicornMaster says:

    There are other lease agreements when 60 days notice is sufficient, and breaking involves a one month penalty/security deposit loss. Depends on your area, but sounds like she’s being reasonable. 2 months rent is fairly standard.

  31. Mom says:

    Legally, it depends on where she is, and what the landlord/tenant law is there. In some locations, whatever is stipulated in the lease is what goes. In other places, it has to do with the damages that the landlord suffers. I know in one place I lived, the landlord had to make a real effort to re-rent the place, and the amount the tenant owed was limited to the rent for the time the place was empty. If the landlord rented the place again right away, the tenant didn’t owe anything. In general, the tenant shouldn’t owe more than about 1 month’s extra rent.

    She really needs to find out what the law is in her area, and what her lease says. The other thing is that if she doesn’t have any money (most renters really don’t), the landlord is unlikely to come after her if she doesn’t pay, because it isn’t worth their time.

  32. peebozi says:

    I’m a landlord…

    I’d fight the landlord on paying two months regardless whether they find a tenant. You should offer paying the rent until they find a tenant/end of lease because it sounds like the place rents out fast. if they insist on you paying the two months then use the house for any purpose and keep possession until the end of february If they want to be pricks and try to double dip then being prickish is your only recourse.

    Essentially, in PA, a tenant can move out whenever they want and lose their deposit. the LL is required to make a good faith effort to rent the place in an expedient manner. Only until the lease is up or they found a new tenant can they sue for lost rent.

    If your lease doesn’t spell out exactly what happens if you leave then there are a ton of other holes in the lease you can exploit too.

  33. Mom says:

    Here’s the law for Alabama: http://ali.state.al.us/hb287com8_22_06.pdf

    It looks like the lease should specify the penalty for moving early. If it doesn’t, then my reading is that it defaults to month to month.

    She may have a claim on the heating, though. I didn’t read carefully, but I think it says if the heat isn’t fixed in 14 days, she has the right to terminate the lease.

  34. denali says:

    What she said was:

    1) You signed a contract to pay a year’s worth of rent. Even if you don’t live there, you agreed to pay it.
    2) Their policy is to ask for 60 days of rent to cover the period of time it will take for them to find someone to take your place.
    3) If they don’t find someone by the end of that 60 days, you’re on the hook for the remainder of the year.

  35. Winteridge2 says:

    How about: Read the lease that you signed and is a legally binding contract. If they are letting you leave and pay only 2 of the 4 months, grab it and go.

  36. Macgyver says:

    “With your circumstance if you will pay two months (January and February)
    extra rent, we will allow you to break the lease. This is our
    standard exit policy. It is very unlikely that we won’t rent the
    house during these two months, but if we don’t you will be responsible
    for the rent through April.”
    How much clearer can it be. You pay Jan. & Feb. If it doesn’t get rented out for Mar. or Apr., you would have to pay those 2 months it went unoccupied.

    With the security deposit, it goes according if the landlord has to fix any kind of damage, or do any kind of cleaning, or any kind of repair, except for the hvac, being that she already knew about that.

    But come on, you had to write to Consumerist for help. Nothing that a phone call wouldn’t do to make things clearer.

  37. janeslogin says:

    Watching court tv shows one gets the distinct feeling that landlord/tenant matters are very much state and local matters and more-so in Northeast US.

  38. sopmodm14 says:

    i would sublease it out

  39. Serpephone says:

    When I left my lease early, I paid what was specified in the lease. It amounted to about a month and a half worth of the lease payment. I did not receive my security deposit. This was also specified in the lease.

    My mother, on the other hand, is responsible for the entire lease. The only exception is if management is able to lease the apartment early. Then they will refund her the difference.

  40. Commenter24 says:

    Look, this isn’t a consumer rights issue and the OP doesn’t need “consumer” advice. The OP needs legal advice provided by a licensed attorney, not a bunch of know-nothing Internet yahoos. This thread is full of generally bad advice, and the OP should disregard all advice that isn’t “talk to a lawyer.” Many localities have landlord-tenant organizations/clinica which can provide legal assistance; she should seek one out.

  41. LegalBill says:

    Twenty one states have adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA), including Alabama. Although many states have varied “uniform” law somewhat, the act generally regulates the contractual relationship between the landlord and the tenant of residential property.

    Furthermore, in some states (e.g., Kansas, my state) the general contractual law principal that when one party breaches an agreement the other party has a general duty to mitigate the damages (or lose the right to recoup the damages) applies to residential leases, i.e., the landlord has a duty to try to rent the property. That doesn’t mean that the lessee is off the hook. If the landlord is unable to rent the property after reasonable efforts or is unable to lease the property for the same or greater amount after reasonable efforts, then the tenant is generally liable for the difference through the end of the legal lease term.

    Here are the states that have adopted the URLTA:
    Alabama
    Alaska
    Arizona
    Connecticut
    Florida
    Hawaii
    Iowa
    Kansas
    Kentucky
    Michigan
    Mississippi
    Montana
    Nebraska
    New Mexico
    Oklahoma
    Oregon
    Rhode Island
    South Carolina
    Tennessee
    Virginia
    Washington

  42. josh42042 says:

    It should be one or the other – EITHER you pay two months rent and are free and clear, or you pay until they re-rent it, up untill april.

    if the lease doesn’t say anything about breaking it, you’re on the hook until April, they’re just doing you a favor by letting you pay to get out early.

  43. parsonsdj1 says:

    Sadly, Consumerist tends to have more and more of these whiny folk seeking something for nothing, or to get out of a legal obligation gratis, or to have a retailer/manufacturer go beyond their legal duties. This individual signed a binding contract to lease a house for 12 months and wants to get out four months early. The other commentators are correct – she is on the hook for the remaining lease term. The landlord does have the duty to mitigate damages, however, and must seek to re-let the property, and when the property is re-let the original renter’s obligation will cease.

    Many larger landlords *choose* to include an early termination penalty clause, which tends to provide a buy-out for a tenant in this situation, for a price. Here, though, basic principles of contract law apply, which requires a contracting party to honor its obligations. Just as the renter would be unhappy if the landlord decided to kick her out 4 months early, and would have the right to enforce her contract, so does the landlord.

    The security deposit is a separate matter and will be returned at the end of the lease less any validly with-held amounts.

  44. ariven says:

    Generally that contract you signed when you started the lease should dictate what can and cant be done. I have seen leases that specify 10% of remaining term rent, have specified 50%, 100% and leases that don’t specify a thing at all.

    But it -is- a contract and generally you are going to be bound by those terms. You should definately have a copy of it and review it to see what it says.

  45. RandomHookup says:

    If you don’t want to get stuck with paying for months you won’t live there, find an acceptable new tenant yourself. The landlord might love you if you do the legwork.

  46. Destra says:

    It all depends on the lease you signed. Almost all states will hold you to that lease and won’t let you break it penalty free. The landlord has the right to hold you to the terms of the contract. What you can do is check to see what the lease says about subletting and try to sublet the place yourself.

  47. Pax says:

    First, the usual caveat: I Am Not A Lawyer.

    Second, another caveat: I speak from my experience with Landlord/Tenant legal issues in Massachusetts. The laws are probably different where you are, but hopefully, not TOO different.

    Now, the answer: unless your landlord is amenable to releasing you from the lease entirely, what you have to pay is: Rent, for each of the remaining four months.

    In some (most?) jurisdictions, the landlord must make a fiar and reasonable effort to find a new tenant. If and when they do, you’re off the hook for whichever months that new tenant will actually be living there. So, let’s say you do move out four months beforehand. Then it takes the landlord two months to find a new tenant. You would have to pay the full rent during those two months that the apartment (or whatever) stood empty.

    As for the landlords offer: it sounds like they is willing to accept twice your monthly rent as an “early termination fee”, and let you out of the lease itself (be sure to get that in writing!!). IMO, that’s an entirely reasonable and fair offer, and if I were in your shoes … I’d take it.

    They also seem to b suggesting that, otherwise, yu’re on the hook until either (a) April, or (b) they find a new tenant … whichever comes first.

    So your choice seems to be: gamble, and risk paying 4 months’ rent … or split the difference, and take the 2-month “sure thing”.

  48. galaxirose says:

    Having lived in some nasty apartments in Alabama during my university years, I actually did once consult a lawyer about breaking a lease. I was told in no uncertain terms that the ONLY way out of a lease in Alabama is to have the roof cave in, rain pour down, have the place be uninhabitable for at least a month, and THEN you can BEGIN the process for filing to have the lease be nullified.

    Sorry Shannon, gonna have to suck it up and/or consider moving to a state with more renters’ rights.

  49. shufflemoomin says:

    Why send this to the consumerist. Why is the even a damn issue here? Ask the landlord and sort it out rather than use the consumerist as a catch-all legal team. Why did this even make the web site? Besides, she signed a legal, binding agreement to rent the place until April. What makes her think she’s free to just break that whenever she pleases. What would be the point of the contract if either party could do that? Would she think it’s fair if the landlord suddenly decided to end the agreement early?

  50. dg says:

    You have a contract honey. YOU are responsible for fulfilling the terms and conditions of it. If you don’t want to, then you get to continue to pay the rent for the next 4 months. No, you can’t use your security deposit as the last month’s rent or any month’s rent – you get it back if the place is clean and in good condition.

    IF, and ONLY IF, your landlord wants to allow you to sub-let the property, then you can sub-lease it to someone. But YOU are still on the hook for making the rent payments to the landlord, and you get to collect your money from the sub-lessee. You’re also responsible for any damage that the sub-lessee does to the premises.

    IF your landlord doesn’t allow sub-lessees, and you simply move out – and they rent the place to someone else immediately for the same rent, you’ll probably be OK – they might deduct the costs of advertising or whatever for the new tenant.

    If you simply move out and they can’t rent the place for the same rent (and it’s less) – you’re responsible for the difference in the rents. They’ll probably deduct the costs of advertising, whatever, and difference in rents from your security deposit.

    Caveat: YMMV by the State you’re in, the language of the lease, etc…

  51. Sumtron5000 says:

    ‘I’m confused. Is she letting me out of the lease except for paying
    January and February’s rent, or am I having to pay until she rents it
    out? What about my security deposit, will I lose that? What are my
    rights? I don’t want to pay her any more or any less than I should,
    but I’m just not sure what that should be.’

    I dunno, why don’t you ASK your landlord for clarification?

  52. coren says:

    And what, exactly, happens if your landlord finds someone to rent for Jan/Feb? Or are they just not going to look?