Tenant broke the lease

13 Replies

Hello dear gurus,

I bought a property in California in a 50+ community for my elderly parents about 5 months ago.  The property was rented out to a single woman until the end of the year.  When I bought a property, I immediately wrote a paper letter to the current tenant saying that I had no intention to continue the lease after Dec 31st, and that they can move out earlier with a 30 days notice in writing. I also sent her the same to her emails address.

On October 30th, I received an email from the tenant that she is moving out on Nov 15th and that she puts the check in a mail.  When I got the check, I found that the check for only half rent (clearly stated on the check).

I contacted the tenant via email saying that I never agreed to accept the pro-rated amount. She responded saying "clearing the check is legally binding as a consent to accept the prorated rent".  I demanded a check for the rest of the month. She refused to pay. I met her at the property on Nov 16th. The carpet was still stained and she refused to surrender the key saying that she will leave it in the drawer of the apartment when she has a chance to clean the carpet.  Technically she is still using my unit and responsible for all the utility bills, etc.

She also told me that she moves next door and she wants us to let it go a "be a good neighbor".  I still have her security deposit that does not cover fully what she owes me.  Can anything be done?  Any advice will be appreciated. I really want to clear this since she is turning the table on me after breaking the lease terms.

Cut your losses..keep SD for monies owed...Keep it moving!

Is it legal to keep the deposit?

The tenant is trying to bully be into returning her security deposit because she will be "my neighbor".  This really pisses me off.

I agree with @Rolanda Eldridge  . Keep the security deposit and move on. Yes, you can keep the security deposit for rent owed. She broke the lease and is at fault here.

I think the bigger problem is that she still has your key and is technically still in possession of your unit. Has she actually moved out and just has the key and still needs to clean it? If yes, then you need to start eviction proceedings. This will probably get her to return the unit back to you right away.

Pick your battles.  What do you want?  The unit for your parents or for the tenant to pay back rent and damages?  

When things go bad, my first priority is always getting possession back and putting it back into service.  I have yet to waste my time trying to collect deficiency balances.  

My assumption is that you would do some thorough cleaning and updating for your parents in this unit anyway and hopefully bought the unit with such items priced into it.  

She moved out to the apartment next door and still has my key to clean the unit and check the mail. She surrendered one set of keys and one garage opener when we met and promised me to leave the second set in the apartment.

My parents never intended to move in before the end of the lease. I was just being flexible to make it easier for the tenant to find a new place to leave, since it is really hard to find rentals and movers during the holidays.  And she used it against me. The unit is in move-in condition and does not require any major work. I was going to replace the carpet and was willing to wave the carpet stains and return her SD in full if she paid the lease in full for November.

So if I was to keep the SD - how can I prevent her from suing me for that? I don't want to take her to the courtroom, just wanted to make sure I do my part.

Last night when we met, she stated that it is illegal for me to use the SD for the unpaid rent - because I cleared the last check for half month. Does she have grounds for claiming it back?

No, she can't claim the rent back. You can accept the rent check for 1/2 the month. Then she can only stay that 1/2 month. You can use the security deposit for unpaid rent. She doesn't know what she's talking about. If everything you are saying is true, she won't win in court.

Just to clarify:

1) I was willing to let the tenant out with 30-days written notice before the end of the lease, even though I didn't have to.

2) The tenant only gave me 15 days and paid for half month.

3) The tenant moved out after 17 days but kept my key and failed to clean the carpet by the projected move-out date.

4) The tenant says I can keep the SD (which is less then half-rent still) . She is also willing to pay me the cleaning fee of $75 per my request.

I'm not sure what is legal for me to do in this case:  

Is it legal for me to keep the SD without being dragged to the courtroom?

Can I enter the apartment for changing the carpet and any necessary repairs/updates?

Has she given up possession?  If she has given up possession only agreeing to pay until mid-month, moved out, and living next door,  I would change the locks. She can't have it both ways, either she has rented until the 15th or she has rented until the 30th.   You can check what is legal but the logic isn't there so I would have a conversation about this with her. Send a statement on the security deposit to her and what has been deducted within the period allowed via your state law.

The tenant is not logical.  She says one thing and does another, so negotiation didn't get me any results.  Maybe it has something to do with her age - she is 70 years old.

She gave you 1 set of keys and the garage opener ,  she has surrendered the unit , change the locks . keep the security deposit .   Tape a  note on the door  " no tresspassing "

Originally posted by @Sophia Maler :

Just to clarify:

4) The tenant says I can keep the SD (which is less then half-rent still) . She is also willing to pay me the cleaning fee of $75 per my request.

I'm not sure what is legal for me to do in this case:  

Is it legal for me to keep the SD without being dragged to the courtroom?

Can I enter the apartment for changing the carpet and any necessary repairs/updates?

Get the $75 from her now. Don't worry about whether she technically broke the lease or not. It happens. Do what you can to appease her into giving you more money.

Defining the point in which she returned possession of the unit back to you by word or deed is key. I'd simplify it by asking her to sign a "Return of Possession" form and give you back the last key.  Getting the key doesn't really matter, since you will be changing the locks, but is good to do for psychological reasons, as it will be a defining moment for her to release her mental hold on the unit that was once her home.  Let her know not to worry about the carpet, as you will be replacing it anyway.  No need for her to do anything more. Then change the locks and begin the repairs/updates.

About the security deposit, follow the laws for your jurisdiction. Keep it as she said, but itemize the legal reasons why you can legally do so...  unpaid rent, unpaid utilities, damages above ordinary wear and tear, extra cleaning, etc.   If she ends up owing you some money still and it is an insignificant amount, waive it for her and call it even.

If she sees you as understanding, flexible and kind, she is likely to be a better neighbor to your parents and less of a headache for you. Go for a win-win.

Originally posted by @Matthew Paul :

....   Tape a  note on the door  " no tresspassing "

Don't do this. It would be an antagonistic move and could do more harm than good for the relationship. Also, trespassing laws vary by legal jurisdiction and posting such a note would likely be legally meaningless.

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