breaking lease

14 Replies

Hi All,

I've read through most of the posts on tenants wanting to break their lease, but wanted to post this slightly different flavor here...

My tenants just called yesterday w/ a situation... we have a 5 bedroom house rented out to them - a couple and their grown daughters - and one of these daughter's boyfriend, and on the flip side of the generation, the couple has one of their mother's living w/ them as well.  so that's a total 6 people already.  They are all on the lease, so this was all on the up and up.  

This part is my fault... sort of... on a walk through during a water heater replacement inspection, I noticed they had cats - maybe a couple of cats... and as you guessed it, they are not authorized to have pets b/c they said no to pets when we first leased it out to them - though the house was listed as dogs acceptable.  So I called it out, and she said they were just fostering the cats (it's part of their charity that their store donates to... I know i should have stated that this infraction breaks their lease agreement, but I let it slide (the house didn't smell of cats and they were keeping the house pretty clean/neat.)

Next infraction - this is part of their call yesterday, they had some trouble w/ the other set of the couple's parent's where the parents had to leave their rental due to their landlord selling the house.  the parents came to stay w/ them as a short term solution (i was not made aware of this until yesterday, and don't know how long they've been there now, but I suspect it's been over the allowable 30 days like a visiting guest.)  So now we're up to 8 people in this 5 bedroom 2300 sq ft house!  Anyway, they called to say the parents have needed surgery etc (everyone has a heart bleed story right?!) and that she doesn't see them moving out anytime soon.  As a result, she recognizes that they need to find a new/bigger house.  Great.... except that they still have 2 months on their lease.  She's found another, ideal house and would like to move there next month if they will hold the house for them and if I will let them out of their lease a month early.  

So w/ the infractions, they've otherwise been decent, pay on time, never bounce a check tenants... albeit troublesome... calling every couple of months with issues of clogged drains and 'funny' noises from their fridge.  I'm definitely looking forward to putting new tenants in there, and doing better upfront training like I'm learning from BP!!  But what would you all suggest I do with these current tenants... say they can get out of their lease early if we can find folks to replace them?  So I could do some pro-rating of that last month depending on how quickly we can find a new tenant - keeping in mind that this is also Nov/Dec in the state of WA!  

If you lasted this long - thanks for reading my long winded explanation!!!

If you didn't address the infractions when you became aware of them, you probably trained them that they could "bend the rules" and get away with it.

Personally, if I was in the situation you are in now with them - I'd let them out early and move on.  If you insist on keeping them the full lease, their opportunity to find another place may go away and you will be stuck in the situation of trying to get rid of them.

In my opinion, they are close enough to the end of the lease to let them go without penalty. 

Cats cause terrible damage, so be prepared for that when the tenants vacate. Fostering a pet or pet sitting IS having a pet.

I would advise them you will immediately begin looking for replacement tenants but that they will be responsible for the rent until replacements are found. Let them know you will make every effort possible but that on such short notice they need to be prepared to pay rent to the end of their lease. There is absolutely no reason you need to make any other arrangements and if it were me I would give them notice immediately that they will be terminated at the end of their lease. This will protect you and insure they leave.

Keep in mind they have done nothing to warrant special treatment. One month more with 8 tenants will not be worse that a months lost income. Make them pay.

Thanks @Thomas S. - I like that advice and am planning on calling them this afternoon to relay that exact message.  I do have 1.5x rent as a security deposit - so if there is anything major, i think that should cover it (rent is 2450).  

In the meantime - i.e. this last month before they leave, would you even bother mentioning the part about the parents staying w/ them... or just let them ride it out - if in fact the father has had all these surgeries - i seem heartless making them find him a new interim place and I don't want them to trash my house in retribution.  I guess I answered my own question...

I would be glad to be rid of them so easily based on their tendency to bring in extra pets and people....

At this rate, you are separating just in time, as they were adding two unauthorized pets and people per year... 

You might  have up 10 people and 4 cats by the end of the next lease at this current rate! You could be hosting a year round family reunion soon (lots of wear and tear, traffic, etc).

They don't seem to take the lease terms or policies seriously (at least their obligations to follow the rules; whereas they seem picky about your obligations related to maintenance). 

So this current development is a good genre problem in my view--how exactly to wind up the tenancy--with tenants willing to move;  a bad problem being having to evict 10 people)......

I would thank my lucky stars they want to leave and do a mutual termination of the lease (deposit return contingent on the cleanliness and condition at move out).

In fact, even if this amicable separation does not work out, I would not be renewing based on these facts. The extra pets and people were not part of what you signed up for.....

Best of luck.

Just as an update for everyone - I wanted to say, I called the tenants back tonight to relay the terms you guys advised me on... basically telling her that i was going to list the place tomorrow and that as soon as i found new tenants, they would be relieved of their obligations so it could be earlier than the one month she was asking for.  She actually was bold enough to say that they'd submit the application for the other house (managed by Windermere) and was worried that they wouldn't get it - so she asked if they could go month to month if they didn't get it.  I stood my ground and said, no, sorry there are too many people and I can't hold the house contingent upon them finding another place to rent!!  We went into discussing her security deposit and how she could get that back - so I'm taking that as a good sign that they'll keep the place in good condition so she can get her 3700 back!  

Thanks everyone for the great feedback - it really helped me to know I was doing the right thing, and helped me phrase things in a good way when I actually spoke to the tenant.  

@Jennifer McElliott  I think it was mentioned by an earlier poster, but I wanted to repeat.  It would be a very good idea on your part to give them written notice to be out by the end of the lease term.  It sounds like they are going to have a difficult time finding a new place, and you don't want to be stuck with them.  

Also with the next tenants, you may want to structure the length of the lease to end/renew around the better time of year.  This way if you do have a vacancy, at least you're not trying to fill a place during the week of Christmas.

And with new tenants limit occupancy to the size of house that fits the number of occupants you want per bedroom size.

@Phillip Dwyer - do you mean just an email or do you have a doc/form that you would use?  (Sorry for the amateur question - this is the first time I've ever had been in this situation!)

@Jennifer McElliott I'm not sure what your state requires for landlord notices.  You'll want to check to be in compliance.  I would imagine that it should be in writing and you'll want to deliver via certificate of mailing.  Still, check with your state and local laws.  Also, triple check your lease agreement.  It probably has instructions for terminating the lease.

@Jennifer McElliott , US Postal Service is an acceptable form of notification in all 50 states. Some states allow email, and I'm not sure if any allow text. Send the letter to them at their current address, return receipt requested so you know they got it.

Make sure you are giving enough notice per your state's landlord/tenant laws. 30 days doesn't mean 30 days from the day you give it. It means the end of the rental period (typically a month) after the notice is given. So if you give notice today, November 1, it would be December 31st because there are not enough days in November for proper notice. (If you had given notice on October 31st, it would be November 30th - 30 days that end at the end of the rental period.)

@Mindy Jensen - ah thanks for the tip!  I sent them an email yesterday, but will double check WA laws to make sure that's good enough!

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