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We moved out two months earlier than our lease ends, but are still fully prepared to keep paying rent until May. We were responsible for getting the lawn mowed, so I had my dad go mow it. While he was there, he saw my landlord living there; is that legal?

Can my landlord still make us pay for the rent even though he’s living there before our lease ends? He also hasn’t said any more to us about whether or not we get our deposit back.

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    Where is the rent house located? – Nosjack Mar 29 at 13:08
  • The Rental property is located in South Florida – Kylie Mar 29 at 13:22
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    This is more of a legal question than a financial one. Maybe try law.stackexchange.com – JohnFx Mar 29 at 13:27
  • Can you show us the relevant part of your lease? When I rented, if I terminated the lease early, I was only liable for rent until they found a new tenant. – Lou Mar 29 at 13:37
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    Did you dad definitely see the landlord living there, or did he see someone living there? How can you be sure he was living there, and not temporarily at the property for some other reason? What has the landlord said about this? – yoozer8 Mar 29 at 16:59
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To play devil's advocate: The landlord living in the house isn't actually costing you anything compared to having it sit empty. Your agreement with the landlord was that you would continue to pay rent unless you found someone to take over the lease, which you didn't. Now, since your lease is still valid, you have the right to use the property, but you explicitly told the landlord that you didn't plan to use it for the next two months. The landlord could argue he isn't denying you as long as he would vacate if you changed your mind and wanted to move back in.

Regarding the security deposit, did you have your inspection or at least take photos at the time you moved out? That is the main potential cost to you that I see, if the landlord tries to charge you for "damage" that wasn't there when you moved out. But it's only at the end of the lease that he owes you an accounting/return of the security deposit, so in that regard he hasn't wronged you yet.

You might be in a better position if you had terminated the lease early. This would likely trigger an obligation of the landlord to look for a replacement tenant. Depending on local law, you might no longer owe rent after some period even if no new tenant was found. Likely that would be longer than two months, so you would still owe the remainder of your lease if no one was found. You could argue that by living there himself, the landlord has found a new "tenant" (imputed rent). However, even this might not completely relieve you of the rent, if the house is intended for more than one person and so the value to him of living there alone(?) does not make up for the rent in the lease.

EDIT: It looks like Florida is even more lenient on the landlord in this situation than most states. The landlord is allowed to "retake possession" of an abandoned unit while looking for a new tenant. And if he didn't retake possession but left it empty, he wouldn't have to look for a new tenant at all but could simply continue to collect rent from OP.

So if the landlord can argue that the property is abandoned, he may be within his rights to live there and charge rent as long as he is looking for a new tenant.

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    Sorry guys, this is ............ nuts. If a landlord, or anyone MOVES IN TO YOUR HOUSE, for goodness sake, call the cops immediately to get it all on record. Then - if you can afford it - redial the phone to your lawyers. – Fattie Mar 29 at 17:50
  • terminated the lease early - ? unheard clause of in the US. – Fattie Mar 29 at 17:50
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    @Fattie Early termination ("breaking" a lease, typically with obligation on tenant to continue paying rent but obligation on landlord to mitigate damages by re-renting) is a normal practice in the US. – nanoman Mar 29 at 18:43
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    @Fattie It is not just "anyone", it is the person who owns the house and has been notified that you no longer want to live there. – nanoman Mar 29 at 18:45
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    @Fattie It's not your house. It's the landlord's house. They have the right to come and go as they please, and likely also have the right to co-habitate or even kick you out. And yes, moving to another state is arguably abandonment. Even if you pay rent, there's a 30 day period of no habitation going on where a landlord could say constitutes a reasonable belief of abandonment, given habitation in another state. Many apartment leases in the US stipulate you must spend a certain number or percentage of nights there per week/month to avoid abandonment clauses kicking in. – TylerH Mar 29 at 21:25
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  1. I believe it is NOT LEGAL. You're the tenant, you are not behind in rent, so only YOU have USE of the property.

  2. I fear the best thing you can do is phone this idiot and say

"Hi Steve. Why are you living in the house? We have already phoned the police because we were so shocked to see some person in our rented house."

  1. Don't pay him a penny more rent. Your only real leverage is withholding the rent.

  2. If the person is such an asshole, it's very likely he will never return your deposit.

  3. Can you call the cops? I would be inclined to do this:

Call simply the local police in that town and say

"Hi guys. There's an unusual problem. We rent the home at address from full name and address of asshole. Currently we are actually out of town for two months, we are living in California. But. full name of asshole has moved in to the house! Again we are the renters and of course we are fully paying the rent. Buy the owner has moved in to the house! We are unsure if you can help us with this, what do you think?"

It may help.

You could hire a lawyer, but of course, that just means you'd get screwed due to the cost - the "little guy" always gets screwed in such situations.

You have no power other than not paying the rent. And buy the way, screw the lawn, don't attend to it!

I hope that you still have enough rent to pay, that, if you don't pay it it makes up for the deposit this fool will steal from you.

Best of luck.

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    I think the police will not eject the landlord, even if the tenant shows a valid lease. After all, the landlord can show he owns the place and will have a story to justify what he's doing ("tenant moved out early, I need to keep the property safe from vandals/squatters..."). The police will not make the landlord return rent to the tenant (that's a court matter). Once it looks like a nontrivial civil dispute, the police will not act without a court order. – nanoman Mar 29 at 17:13
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    If the OP has vacated the property and returned the keys, I don't think it will be illegal for the landlord to move someone else into the apartment (including himself). What will be illegal is to charge the OP rent if a new tenant has been found, but the police aren't going to remedy that by removing the new tenant from the premises, nor can they force the landlord to return the OP's rent. I'm not sure what is the expected/desired outcome from calling the cops, aside from being a scare tactic or getting information on the courts. – Nuclear Hoagie Mar 29 at 17:28
  • @NuclearHoagie: The explanation given by the landlord will show up on the written police report. He'll have to make up his mind whether the property is still rented to the original tenants, in which case the police will only allow him to act as a landlord (make repairs, but not reside there) or whether he admits that he's ended their lease to make room for a new occupant. – Ben Voigt Mar 29 at 17:33
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    Florida Bar's website states "If the tenant permanently moves out before the end of the rental term and leaves the property vacant, this usually is considered to be an abandonment of the tenant’s rights". Unlikely the cops will be of any use here except to confirm at this stage you're dealing with a civil matter. A lawyer will be more useful. – Laconic Droid Mar 29 at 18:00
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    @LaconicDroid - I just don't buy it. At the other extreme, if I happen to go on a few-month holiday, that's not what the Florida Bar Website is discussing. Phone calls are free - call the cops and then it is on record, AND the dirty landlord knows it's a serious issue. – Fattie Mar 29 at 19:34

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