Need help with tenant breaking the lease

15 Replies

We rented out our house 2 months ago (We had 3 applicants we chose the one I thought low risk but turned out total nightmare). First month we spent close to half month rent to fix things they requested. Starting second month there is another list. In the middle of second month The renter requested to let out of the lease because of several issues :1. Carpets look great but when getting down hands and knees it smells. 2. There are spiders in the house. several other petty issues.

We finally found a next renter now he wants us sign the following before he moves out: 1. 

(1) That they be let out of their lease effective on their exact move out date;

(2) That their deposit be returned by exact one month of their move out day.

(3) That their rent be pro-rated so that they pay only through their move out date for the month,

(4) That no action is taken against their credit.

He asked a lawyer (not litigation yet) drafted this document to sign. The lawyer threatens litigation.  Should we sign?

We do not want to sign this but I am stressed out about litigation. He is late on rent this month too. He is a bully and I really want to kick them out or fight back but again hate litigation. Any advice is appreciated.


He is in default of the lease. Depends on how badly you want him gone. If I read your post correctly, you already have your next renter? If so let current move out and charge through the day before the new person moves in plus damages. If he has caused anything you have to pay for beyond a normal turn to get back on the market, I would charg. Make sure you have plenty of pictures and documentation. Also check your local and state laws for how long you have to return the deposit or provide an accounting of any portion not returned.

What does your lease say about what happens if the tenant breaks the lease.

THAT'S the defining document, not this lawyer drafted agreement.

Hello Cathy-

What does your lease say?  If there a clause about breaking the lease early?  If so, follow that. If not, check your state law.  

In Michigan, they would be liable for the rent until the new tenant was in place unless the lease says otherwise or they were leaving for a bigger reason- health, safety, etc.  I would have to return the deposit (less deductions) within 30 days no matter what the circumstances.  I don't think breaking a lease affects their credit, but you should be collecting a late fee if their rent is late (again, what does your lease say?) and you should be able to report their payment habits to a credit bureau.

So, if you have  tenant wanting the place, I would collect the late fee, let them move out and deduct anything past normal wear and tear and return the deposit quickly.  It stinks that you have to go through this, but I think the best thing to do is to get them out and move on.


@Cathy L.

Wow! You are in a tough spot and wish you the very best! 

I'm not going to beat you up on tenant screening as I see that your are new to BP so first off WELCOME!

We use a 17-page lease appropriate for the state we lease in and it has been reviewed by a lawyer and then on top of that we add an addendum for pets, an addendum for moving out procedures, etc.  I realize that info would have been helpful a while ago but nevertheless, I think it'll be helpful for your next "lined up tenant."  BP has a FANTASTIC tenant screening product that I highly recommend.  My advice on it: Don't deviate as it will cost you later in headache and money.  

What to do with the tenant in the unit that is giving you the current headache, it is tough to say as we don't know what type of contract you have set up with them or what it says.  I would highly encourage you to find a RE Lawyer that will look at your current lease with the current tenant along with their "demands" as realistically, paying a RE lawyer a couple of hundred bucks is going be a worthwhile education, plus, may save you thousands on that weird agreement the tenant is "demanding" you sign.

Being a landlord is very tough and I believe it to require STRONG LEADERSHIP skills.  Don't be bullied by a bad tenant! They have probably done this to others and have developed the knowledge and experience base.... and.... they will do it to another landlord!  I'm sorry to hear about your situation and wish you the best.  Get ARMED with information and under no circumstances, get into an argument or verbal-shouting match (I know it's tempting) with them as they can become emotional and you have to walk a very DELICATE line when dealing with problem tenants like this.

I'm NOT providing legal advice: but if you have a lease (contract law) and they are in default, it doesn't take a genius to decipher who is in the wrong. Keep us updated and again, good luck! 

Thanks for replying.

Tommy, We can not sign the new lease with the new renter with this current renter in there or not giving us definite date, right? We are afraid that we sign the new release and the current renter fails to leave. 

The dilemma is by signing this lawyer's document we can not charge the current renter after they move out even if the new renter does not work out. Meanwhile without signing this lawyer's document we can not sign the new lease with the new renter.

Linda,  The lease says they are obligated to pay the rent until the new renter moves in or until the lease ends. Basically they want out without any obligation by asking us to sign the document.  

Thanks @Kelly N. for the advice. The only issue we have is to let them out of the lease on their move out date. We will see.

Thanks @Juan Cristales for replying. How can you screen a difficult tenant? What if they look great on paper. I truly thought I was going to work with the nicest tenants we ever have.

Cathy L. A tenant looking great on paper is only part of the screening process. In order to weed out problem tenants, make sure you talk to their last two landlords to find out of there have been any problems. You want to reach back two landlords in case the last one is just saying nice things to get rid of them. In addition to asking if they paid rent on time, you want to ask if there were any difficulties during the lease and if they left the property in good condition. The general question "would you rent to them again?" Is also a good one. Also, when you are screening, ask the potential tenant why they are moving. If all they do is talk trash about their former landlord, then chances are they are overly demanding.

I'd serve them a pay or quit with your late charges added. If they want out, follow whatever your lease break agreement is for your state/lease. Let them know you are happy to work with them as much as you can, but only they can guarantee that their credit will remain intact by ensuring you have no reason to send them to collections and they cause no damages that their deposit doesn't cover. Your state/lease will dictate the speed you return the deposit and you'll stop charging them rent once a new tenant is in.

Work within the law and you should be good to go. If you modify your contract (lease) with them with a new one (what they're presenting) you have just agreed to new terms.

Thanks for the input, it helps. They did not have land lord for the last several years. Sounds pity or naive but I idolized them based on what they do. 

Get rid of them!  Follow your state law and evict them!  Don't be held hostage by these people.  If you get them served personally at the residence (where you know they'll be , you'll be able to sue for monetary damages as well as possession of the property. It sounds like they are trying to bully you into submission, and if you let them get away qith this, you'll lose, and the next landlord will lose.

we gave them last chance to leave peacefully - agree to several items they requested but not sign. They signed a letter with leave date but put items what they want in the contingency part. We have not agreed on the letter they wrote. We are not going to sign but are we obligated to follow those items in the contingency part in their letter if we verbally agree? Are those items over lease agreement? Thanks for all the help. 

Their lawyer told us if we do not fulfill every single request of theirs they will take us to court and the lease (from realtor association web site) is invalid. I am not sure we can compete with this tenant with their (most likely free) lawyer. Evil wins, can sleep at night and enjoys the money stolen from our family and our kids.

This song is stuck in my head " Mr. and his pitbull". Here goes: Release the pitbull, Woof, Woof, Hallelujah, Mr. rules.

Originally posted by @Cathy L. :

Their lawyer told us...

Yes, but what did YOUR attorney tell you? Do you buy a used car because the salesman guarantees that it's in great condition? Or do you have another party look it over?

A lease is a lease. Every situation is different, so there may be reasons to simply bend over for them, but you are enabling and enforcing their behavior and making all the other landlords out there have to work that much harder to compensate.

If you follow all state laws and stick to your lease you should be fine. I would't get involved, that could get ugly.

Our lawyer thinks if it is below $2500 loss it is not worth it. We have our next renter lined up not ideal but could work. Every time I received their demanding letters to let them out of lease immediately without any obligation or talk to their lawyer. I was mad at myself that why I trusted them more and selected them. I was so stressed by those letters that I could not sleep. My husband and I have spent hours talking about them where we should have spent that time with our kids. I truly hope and pray a stronger person will expose them and take them down before it gets worse. 

My son and I will make a skit out of this for our next camp out. Can you find humor for a person to get out of responsibility by bullying, no respect to others or law by asking us give up our rights as landlord so he can benefit, no appreciation that we selected and trusted them with our house, no empathy or compassion when I called and pleaded with him yet the same person preaches responsibility, respect, appreciation, empathy, and compassion?

On the other hand they will be out of our lives. For that, praise the lord! Hallelujah!!

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