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I had to move to a new apartment. My current lease is not up for 8 months. In order to terminate my lease early, the contract states that I must pay $1,000 plus the normal rent until a new tenant is found. With this $1,000, they will look for a new tenant for me.

They have no motivation to find a new tenant, and I am starting to think they will not find one until my lease is up or briefly before it is up. I am currently paying two rents, although I only have one apartment.

What happens if I just stop paying the rent at the old place? They already gave me the reference for the new place.

This is the part of the contract about early termation:

LEASE-TAKEOVERS, SUBLETS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

Because of your personal liability and our obligation to act in accordance with The Fair Housing Laws, no advertisement for Lease-takeovers or sublets and no agreement to take over a Lease or sublet are to be done without the expressed written permission of the Management.

Lease Takeovers: Residents cannot engage in re-rents or Lease-takeovers without prior written permission from the Landlord. Please contact the Leasing Office for the current policy details if you wish to pursue a Lease-takeover or re-rent.

Subleases: Subleases will be signed for anyone wishing to vacate the apartment for three months or less. The subleasing fee will be $75.00. Once the Sublease terms are determined, [Leasing Company] will sign the necessary paperwork and complete the transaction to ensure that the new Resident has proper access to all of our services.

Any Resident found to have subleased his/her apartment without notifying [Leasing Company] of a subtenant and completing the necessary paperwork will be charged a fee of $250.00.

Name Addition/Deletion: Name additions and deletions are allowed during the lease term following policy and rental criteria. Fees may be incurred. Please discuss this process with a Leasing Associate.

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    They could sue you. – Craig W Dec 18 '14 at 18:59
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    Wait... They told you that you have to pay $1,000 extra, plus continue to pay your rent? That doesn't sound right. Where do you live? I would check local and state regulations, because that does not sound legal. – Ben Miller Dec 18 '14 at 19:22
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    I agree with Ben, this sounds like a scam or something. Why would they need 1000 extra for you to not live there? – Bobo Dec 18 '14 at 20:23
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    @Evorlor "and that if they don't find anyone before my lease runs out, they keeping the $1,000 anyways" yea but you are saying they also want you to pay the rent just like before. For that reason the additional $1K does not sound legal - is it specified in the rental agreement that you made with them? – user100487 Dec 18 '14 at 20:58
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    Why did you have to move? There can be reasons where it is possible to break a lease. – mhoran_psprep Dec 19 '14 at 12:21
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According to the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, section 55-248.35 (Remedy after termination) on page 37 says that if you terminate the contract, the landlord has the right to claim rent and a separate claim for actual damages for breach of the rental agreement.

They can claim this until your lease is up or another tenant moves in, whichever is first. It doesn't go into detail about what they can claim as actual damages though, so that $1000 probably fits into that category.

$1000 does seem a little excessive though. Pages 2 through 6 of that document have a bunch of phone numbers you can call about legal advice though, so you might want to look into that.

But keep paying rent for now! They can come after you in court if you don't, and that won't be good for you at all. Also I like BrenBarn's suggestion about finding another tenant yourself.

Update:

Hmm... It doesn't look like that section of your contract says anything about this fee. Since you are not subleasing, you shouldn't get the subleasing fee. I would definitely talk to a lawyer or someone else that knows about this stuff.

You might also want to read through the rest of your contract carefully and see if it is mentioned anywhere else.

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    I was was going to vote a +1 but I had a problem with the update. The quote added to the question only talked about the tenant trying to find a replacement tenant, not necessarily about early termination. – mhoran_psprep Dec 19 '14 at 12:23
  • I was assuming that Bobo might have seen more of the contract than the rest of us had, but @mhoran_psprep does have a point here... – keshlam Dec 19 '14 at 13:53
  • @mhoran_psprep I just took into account what the OP showed me about the contract. They said that was the only part that mentioned early termination, so I assumed there was nothing else about it. – Bobo Dec 22 '14 at 16:11
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To answer the question: What happens if you simply don't pay your rent is that they take you to court demanding what's owed them, and probably win. You did sign the lease promising you would pay it.

WARNING: I am not a lawyer and do not know your local laws and codes and practices. The following is opinion based only on my personal experience and my best understanding of common practice. You really need to research this locally, rather than asking the web!

Having said that:

They shouldn't get to take both rent AND the penalty. If you're still paying rent, you haven't yet broken the lease, even if you have moved all your stuff elsewhere.

And they shouldn't keep charging you rent once they have another tenant signed up to take the place.

Of course they can keep charging you rent until the lease runs out. So you may want to break the lease, if it will be cheaper to do so (even with penalty) than to pay the remaining N months. But arguably, if you're still paying rent you haven't broken the lease... so I'm not convinced they can charge both.

They may be entitled to keep the full security deposit.

I STRONGLY suggest that your take your lease to the local fair housing agency and ask them what it really says and whether this violates any of the local rules about what is and isn't a reasonable lease. If it does break the rules, they will tell you what you can or can't do about it. Do not withhold rent until/unless they tell you that you can do so. If you're lucky, they can help you settle this in some less painful manner without having to get lawyers involved.

But you may be out of luck. You did sign the contract; if this really is in the contract somewhere and isn't forbidden for some reason, you're bound by it unless both sides agree to rewrite the agreement. Of course you may be able to persuade them to be more cooperative by threatening to publicize this. (Another possible source of help is your local newspaper, especially if they have a "crusading reporter" column.)

Next time, make sure you read the contract carefully, IN FULL, before you sign it. DO NOT SIGN if there is anything you consider unreasonable, even if you think it won't apply or they promise not to enforce it. Get them to agree to strike out the offending language, or walk out and rent elsewhere.

  • I don't have to keep paying the rent after they find someone else, but I don't think they will find anyone. – Evorlor Dec 18 '14 at 21:24
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    If they don't, you're probably on the hook for the rest of the rent unless they let you buy them off. That's what you agreed to. The right answer may have to be to delay your relocation. – keshlam Dec 18 '14 at 21:38
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If you break your lease and stop paying rent, you are still liable for any rent until the lease runs out or until someone else moves in, whichever is earlier. If you stop paying rent, then they can choose to sue you for the part you owe them. You are still entitled to your security deposit back, as long as there are no damages to the apartment (the deposit is only for damages, not rent); but if you stop paying and owe them money, then they can apply the security deposit, or part thereof, toward that debt. (It's not like you're going to sue them for the deposit anyway if you owe them even more money on rent.)

If the amount is small, the landlord may choose not to sue you, but they can still put a bad report on your credit report.

Regarding your claim that the landlord will just sit around and not find anyone, I don't know about Virginia specifically, but I know that in California, the landlord has an obligation to mitigate damages. That means if you tell them you are breaking your lease and moving out early, they have an obligation to try to find someone to move in as soon as possible as they normally would when someone moves out at the end of their lease. They cannot just sit around and do nothing. Again, I am not sure about Virginia.

  • They might be obligated to list it, but if they own a bunch of units (as sounds likely), they're definitely under no obligation to steer people to this unit in preference to any other one. – hobbs Dec 19 '14 at 8:06

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