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Assume Joe's employment contract and hence USA visa have ended, therefore he is forced to leave the country and break the apartment lease. The leasing company is demanding the remaining 6 months of rent to be paid in full upon leaving. What is a reasonable course of action for Joe, assuming the landlord has no human decency he could appeal to?

Location: St Joseph County, Indiana.

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    Why isn't Joe asking this question instead of Jack? – Dilip Sarwate Mar 3 '15 at 4:41
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    This question's answer varies significantly based on specific location. Many jurisdictions have specific requirements for landlords to attempt to find a new tenant. Most would not permit a 'paid on full upon leaving' requirement. But others have different rules. Specific city and state, at minimum, and under what conditions is the landlord claiming the right to demand payment in full? Simply "Because otherwise I know you won't pay me and I can't really sue you in another country" isn't sufficient. – Joe Mar 3 '15 at 6:10
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    Also, many times if the employer terminates employee on a visa, the employee is required to pay any costs related to the employee's repatriation. That is true for H1b, not for L1. INA 214 (c)(5)(A) – littleadv Mar 3 '15 at 8:29
  • @Joe OK, added that information. What else is needed? – Jack Mar 3 '15 at 15:33
  • The latter: What terms in the lease is the company relying on to demand the six months' rent? – Joe Mar 3 '15 at 15:41
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That sounds unreasonable. The renter isn't necessarily responsible for the rent of the entire remainder of the lease -- the renter is only responsible for the rent until the landlord finds a new tenant if it happens before the end of the lease, and whether that happens cannot be known ahead of time. Plus, the landlord has an obligation to try to find a tenant after the renter moves out.

In any case, it seems like Joe hasn't missed any obligations as of this time -- Joe has paid his rent so far, and hasn't failed to pay any months of rent yet. So the landlord does not currently have any cause to sue Joe. So Joe should be legally and morally right to ignore the unreasonable and unenforceable demand, and leave the country. Later, if the unit is still not rented out, Joe could be responsible for rent for those months, but that is something for Joe to worry about at that time.

  • Suppose Joe finds a tenant who has a similar status as himself (i.e. not just some tramp). Can the landlord simply refuse to accept this tenant, according to Indiana law? Or, can the landlord ask for a higher rent from this new tenant (which might drive away the new tenant)? This second scenario is more of a worry. I'm not sure if this is an on-topic question. – Jack Mar 4 '15 at 1:46
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    @Jack: Sure, the landlord refuse the tenant. And the rent that the landlord asks will probably be the rate at which new renters pay, which is likely higher than what Joe paid, if rents have been going up, since Joe had his rent fixed by a lease. – user102008 Mar 4 '15 at 8:37
  • Then all arguments about losing rent fail. If Joe were to stay, the landlord couldn't raise the rent until the end of the lease. – Jack Mar 4 '15 at 15:33
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If the landlord would take a tenant to court for this sort of issue, it's almost sure the landlord would win.

In general, what I have heard of similar cases, the judge would require the tenant to pay (typically) 2 months rent. If the landlord is still holding a security deposit (and the property was left in satisfactory condition), then the security deposit would be applied against the 2 months rent and a lesser amount would be owed. In other words, the landlord would be expected to be able to find a replacement tenant within 2 months (on average). The tenant would probably also be responsible to pay some court costs. Of course the particular details of all this will vary depending on location.

This case is different because once Joe leaves and moves out of the country, the landlord will not be able to take Joe to court and will not be able to recover anything (beyond the security deposit which they are not likely to have returned to Joe).

So perhaps Joe could make an offer like this:

  1. Assuming the landlord doesn't know Joe is moving out of the country, Joe makes that clear to the landlord (this is "Leverage" for Joe).
  2. Joe agrees to leave (or has left) the property in satisfactory condition.
  3. Landlord will keep Joe's security deposit.
  4. Both agree the matter is fully settled.

It may be best for Joe, if he makes this offer after moving all his belongings out of the property and has left the property in satisfactory condition.

The landlord will probably argue that he already has the security deposit and will want to negotiate something more. Joe may offer to pay an additional one-half month rent... perhaps a bit more, but I would say not more than one full month rent. Remember since Joe can just leave (or has already left by this time), he really has the upper hand in this situation.

The landlord should see this as a fair deal (of course there's no guaranty he will see it as a fair deal) because he will get the same or perhaps slightly more (depending on how much the security deposit was and the amount negotiated with Joe), than a judge would award him, without actually having to go to court.

For Joe, it's fair because he knows (or should know) that he wouldn't get his security deposit back anyway, and that since he is leaving early he is responsible to pay something. So for the cost of one-half month's rent (or so), Joe gets to leave with the matter fully settled and doesn't have to worry about what might happen if he returns in the future.

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