If I Need To Break My Lease, Am I Responsible For Finding A New Tenant?

The Landlord is Responsible

I had a chaotic experience the first time moving into an apartment. We were first told by the onsite manager that we got the apartment, only to be told (after paying $120 application fee) that we might not pass since most of us are international students and we have no credit.

The property management told us the only way to rent to us was for us to find a guarantor, and on top of that he /she needs to be a home owner. After pulling all connections we found someone who would do that for us. When we signed the agreement we were told initially that if we want to move out prior to the end of the lease, we would need to tell them and then they, with our co-operation would try to find another tenant. Should a new tenant pass the application process then it would be ok to move. Now we are trying to relocate since my mother’s health is failing and she needs to move in with me.

Yesterday I called them to tell them we had to move. They told us that to help us advertise, it would cost us $895. I also received this email today:

You are allowed to find someone that is interested on your own. A friend or acquaintance. If they like the property they can call me and then submit an application and go through the acceptance process. If they qualify we can move forward. You may not advertise the property for rental.

I don’t understand. How am I suppose to find someone to move into my place if I cannot post anything saying I need to find someone to rent it? We were also forced to buy renter’s insurance for our property as condition of rent. Is this what renting are like in America?

This is a typical scam used by lazy landlords to guarantee their income without doing a lick of work. While the landlord may want you to think he owns you, he doesn’t. You can move whenever you want to, but you may be liable for damages to the landlord for breaching your lease.

These situations happen all the time. Tenants have to break their leases to deal with emergencies, job changes or simply because the unit wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.

When you choose to move and to technically breach your lease, the landlord has the duty to mitigate (lessen) his damages.

What are a landlord’s potential damages? If you signed a year lease and you want to move after six months, the landlord has an expectation that he would receive the same rent as you pay for the next six months. These are called “expectation damages.” He must mitigate those damages by renting the unit for the same amount as you were paying, not more. If the landlord can only rent the place for $100.00 less than you paid, he would incur $600.00 in expectation damages and you would be liable for those damages. The landlord might also incur costs to re-rent the unit. You mention a potential cost–advertising. Other costs can include reasonable payment to a rental agent or expenses incurred in re-keying a unit, etc. You may be liable for those costs, if the landlord can prove he spent the dough.

You are not responsible for finding another tenant. Period. That’s the landlord’s job! If he doesn’t try to find another tenant he is not mitigating his damages.

You should simply give your thirty-day notice (in writing) and move. Please don’t call them any more. Make them commit their idiotic assumptions in writing.

If the landlord tries to sue you for damages, the email you provided will serve as excellent evidence that the landlord was shirking his duty. Remember, the landlord has to prove that he incurred his claimed damages. Since when does a craigslist ad cost $895?

Yes, this is what renting is like in America. Like our health care system (37th in the world according to the WHO); our infant mortality rate (51st in the world according to the CIA); our incarceration rate (1st in the world according to the International Centre for Prison Studies); renters fair about as well as they do in most other third-world banana republics where tenants have few rights and El Jefe runs the show.

In Germany–health care system (25th in the world according to the WHO); infant mortality rate (15th in the world according to the CIA); incarceration rate (166th in the world according to the International Centre for Prison Studies)–renters comprise 57% of the population. Renters enjoy some of the cheapest rents in the industrialized world and they have some of the strongest legal protections, including no summary procedure (get ’em out quick) for evictions and state provided defense attorneys. Additionally, landlords do not enjoy the same tax breaks as they do in the United States. I use Germany as an example because my German business partner and I frequently compare our two countries and because I ran across this insightful article, Most Germans don’t buy their homes, they rent. Here’s why, by Matt Philips.

What’s my point? It comes as no surprise that the lords of your living space, who frequently exact a tax of over 30% of your income, don’t give a shit about the few rights you may have. They Don’t Call ‘Em Landlords for Nothing.

Crow & Rose's legal practice emphasizes eviction defense, wrongful eviction and other landlord tenant and real property matters.

3 Responses to If I Need To Break My Lease, Am I Responsible For Finding A New Tenant?

  1. Most of the problem landlords I’ve encountered -and even some of the good ones- seem unaware or unconcerned when it comes to the rights of their tenants. And they’re offended (or become hostile) if their tenants bring them up, I suppose because it disrupts the delicate balance of power whenever anyone questions their authority or benevolence by pointing out their responsibilities as landlords. It’s a system based on illusion.

    Same thing with our current profit-driven system of healthcare, which has us all beholden to insurance companies and other powerful interests – even more so now that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is in place. It’s why I, along with a lot of other folks, support single-payer under H.R.676.

  2. The financial crisis would have been much less destructive in the US were our landlord-tenants laws not so “I’m a landlord and that gives me the right to be a jerk whenever I want.” Tenants with rent control and just cause eviction would make a different economic calculation in deciding whether to buy a house that would eventually require a mortgage payment larger than their gross income.

  3. Can you address the tenant’s statement that he was required to purchase renter’s insurance? This requirement is becoming increasingly common.

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