Breaking a South Dakota Lease

8 Replies

Hey BP,

I have an interesting question today because I'm on the tenant side right now.  Does anyone know what the South Dakota statute is to break a lease early if there is nothing in the contract? 

Long story short I recently helped my cousin move out of her rented mobile home due to abuse from her live in boyfriend (who is also on the lease).  I spoke with the landlord right away but he didn't have a process for breaking the lease, and I can't seem to find it in the SD statutes. Any advice?

I'll agree with that, but that is why we are trying to figure out what had to be done ahead of time.  The landlord is going to end up (probably) evicting my cousin's ex. We are trying to make sure the landlord isn't screwed while getting her off the lease.

Hi Kaleb! :-) We missed the last couple REIA meetings. Good to see you here!

Your timing is impeccable. We checked with an attorney regarding South Dakota leases just last week. If they need to break the lease early, the current tenant is responsible for paying the rent until a new tenant is in place. So her landlord has the right to demand the full amount from one and/or the other. 

As Justin said above, it's not the landlord's fault your cousin has bad taste in men, but maybe he'd be willing to work something out because he has a soft spot for people who have been abused, such as having her pay partial rent until the boyfriend's evicted.  I think she's just going to have to have a discussion with her landlord and see what he says.

Kudos to you for getting involved and helping your cousin. Scary stuff!

@Kaleb Carsten the landlord can demand rent from her/him for the entire duration of the lease. If he stops paying rent and she doesn't pay rent, the landlord could file to evict him and her. He could then seek judgement for the owed rents (up to time of eviction) and they would both be responsible. 

My suggestion is to have her offer the landlord some money and in return have him sign a document releasing her from the lease. I would offer one full months rent, which is her half for two months. Make the offer verbally to the landlord and if he accepts, have him sign an addendum that releases her from the lease.

The most important thing here is getting away from the abusive situation. Most landlords are compassionate enough that they will not take her to court or make her pay more than a reasonable amount. 

I had a similar situation where the guy liked to punch his girlfriend when he got drunk. I went over to the property and told him to get the F out of the property. He left and never came back. I released her from the lease without penalty. I just kept their deposit. I spent days fixing his punch holes in the sheet rock. Sad situation all around. 

The comments about a "bad taste in men" is a little harsh and very judgmental. Sometimes guys start out really nice and turn abusive. It can happen to anyone. People raised in non-abusive families will have even more difficulty dealing with it. I hope it NEVER happens to my daughter or any of your children. 

@Joe Splitrock I may be harsh, but the only way to make money in renting is to remove your heart from the situation. I’ve heard every excuse in the book for people breaking leases. If she bought a house with her boyfriend, do you suppose they would refund her money. I feel sorry for her but in my experience in renting it’s never their fault. I think she should pay out her lease and live with family. Consider it a lesson learned. I have given in to situations like this before as a landlord and it always seem to repeat.
Originally posted by @Justin Thiesse :
@Joe Splitrock I may be harsh, but the only way to make money in renting is to remove your heart from the situation. I’ve heard every excuse in the book for people breaking leases. If she bought a house with her boyfriend, do you suppose they would refund her money. I feel sorry for her but in my experience in renting it’s never their fault. I think she should pay out her lease and live with family. Consider it a lesson learned. I have given in to situations like this before as a landlord and it always seem to repeat.

I was just pointing out being the victim of domestic abuse is not her fault. Being an abused women is not a "bad choice". It doesn't work that way. You can date people months or even years before they become abusive. It is different than a typical lease-break, because a crime has been committed at the property.

I didn't say she shouldn't pay anything. I suggested she offer the landlord a full months rent and he would keep their deposit. Any competent landlord can get a property re-rented in a month, so my guess is the landlord will accept this offer.

Good luck getting a court to enforce tenant paying rent while the landlord lets the property sit vacant. Or worse, expecting her to pay all the rent while her abusive boyfriend lives there rent free. You will need to go to court every month to get a judgment for rent. The judge is going to ask why you don't just evict and get a new tenant. If you do evict, that terminates the lease, so their future financial obligation ends.

It is in the landlords best interest to get some money from her, get the boyfriend out without eviction and re-rent.