Posted over 4 years ago

08.01.14 Bullet Dodged with Rental Agreement Interpretation

Normal 1406941547 Legalese

OK, I’m guessing I might take some flak for not having a lawyer regularly review my rental agreement. I know, I know. But I like to tinker. I find something I like somewhere else and incorporate it. I’m also very committed to keeping the rental agreement in plain English as much as possible; if I struggle to understand what “jointly and severally” means, how will our low income tenants have any clue?

We recently had a move-out, though, where we realized that our wording wasn’t as crisp as it should be.

This is how our notices paragraph read until just recently:

Tenancy may be terminated by either party with 20 days' written notice prior to the end of the rental period. This means that Tenant or Landlord has until roughly the 10th of any month to give notice for moving out at the end of that month. Note that earlier notice is appreciated, but communication only qualifies as notice when there is a declared move out date. If tenant moves out sooner than the end of the required notice period, Landlord will give a prorated refund of rent if the unit is able to be re-rented before the end of the month. Tenant shall, at the expiration of either and all notices, surrender the premises and keys to the landlord or agent.

Our tenant moved out mid month and insisted it was against the law for us to not provide a prorated rent refund as of the date of her move out. It turns out that she was not understanding that the “prior t the end of the rental period” (even though we explain it like crazy at move in!), so she ended up letting it go, but we thought she had us on this sentence: If tenant moves out sooner than the end of the required notice period, Landlord will give a prorated refund of rent if the unit is able to be re-rented before the end of the month.

We mean that if we can and do re-rent it, but we can see how it could be interpreted as possible to re-rent instead. If she leaves it move in ready, it is able to be re-rented and a refund could be due.

That sentence now reads: If tenant moves out sooner than the end of the required notice period, Landlord will give a prorated refund of rent if the unit is re-rented before the end of the month. 



Comments (4)

  1. Hi Michelle! I just came across this blog post of yours. Being that I'm in Washington State too, I certainly can relate. However, we don't tell tenants in the rental agreement that we will prorate the last month's rent, as we are not required to by L-T law. However we do prorate the last month's rent if a tenant meets certain criteria.... 1. They have been a good tenant during the course of their tenancy. 2. They informed us ahead of time of their intent to move as soon as they started planning to do so. 3. They gave us proper written notice. 4. They paid rent in full for the last month's rent on or before the date it was due. 5. They were cooperative at move-out. 6. They left the place in good shape.


  2. Why do you feel the need to even include that sentence? I have tenants move out early in their last month when they've already paid the full month's rent. None of them ever expect to have any prorated rent refund. 


  3. Michele,

    Certainly no harm in breaking things down to a Sesame Street level so they can be easily understood. I know it can be annoying to keep adding wording into what could already be a lengthy lease agreement, but better safe than sorry. Glad things worked out.


    1. Sesame Street level, love it @Scott Stevens !  Thanks for posting.