Tenant breaking lease

8 Replies

So one of my tenants are soon as she is getting a voucher for new housing and has asked me if she can break her lease. Her lease ends November 30th, but in October she signed a new lease for 6 months starting December 1st. Since I can’t force her to stay I told her when she receives her voucher for new housing to let me know and I will see what I can do letting her out of the lease. So today a property manager I assume, has contacted me as a rental reference for this tenant but I’m not sure what I (legally)should/can tell her. This tenant would be essentially breaking her lease if she leaves and as of today I have not received rent for November and she has some damage in the unit. She hasn’t given any notice. So can I divulge all of this info to this property manager? And since she’s already signed a new lease starting December 1st what can I legally charge her for?

You can legally tell the PM everything that is a truthful fact. Everything you have posted.

To answer your question regarding what she owes and what you can hold her to you need to know your state landlord tenant regulations.

You should be contacting her welfare handler and informing them of her violation of your lease. You may be able to get her benefits cut off.

I agree Tom I intend to let the Pm know what I can do she isn’t able to leave without paying what she owes. I know she’s trying to get another apt first and then she’ll just leave. Thanks for the advice

If she didn’t give you any notice, how did you come about telling her you’d see what you could do. Why is she leaving? And what does, “what I can do” imply. I have never worked with section 8 but it sounds like your tenant wanted to move but wasn’t sure she’d get the go ahead in time. So she gave you what notice she could without leaving herself homeless. Did you offer to go month to month? Or did you require her to sign a lease? How much is her security deposit? Will it cover the damage with some left over to cover breaking the lease? When you sign up for taking section 8 tenants you may have to reconcile taking the bad with the good.

@Remone Randolph   Tenants will always move when they want to move. The good thing is the tenant has come forward to let you know what is going on. It takes a long time to get on the Section 8 program and when she renewed her lease with you she may not have known she was finally approved for the Section 8 program.

I think what you told her initially makes sense. When she can verify she has indeed secured assistance from Section 8, meet with her and explore the options. You can be flexible and you can be compassionate.

Would you consider continuing to rent to her and accept rent from Section 8? It's not difficult to contract with Section 8 and get your unit approved. Section 8 may direct deposit rent into your bank account even before it is due. That's what they do for us. Depending on how the Section 8 program is administered in your area, this could be a great thing for you!

If you don't want to accept her rent through the Section 8 program, then it would be fine for you to release her from her lease obligation. If she's cooperative, up to date with her rent, pays for damages, and leaves the place clean, then let her go without penalty. Karma will be good to you.  It's easy to re-rent anytime of the year in Western Washington, especially in metropolitan areas, such as Auburn. Talk with her about a move-out plan to make the transition for both of you smooth and easy.

If you don't want to let her out of the lease without penalty, then charge her according to the terms of the break lease clause of your rental agreement, assuming you have one.

You say you have not received November rent. What day of the month does this tenant normally pay? Do you have a grace period? Do you have reason to believe the tenant will not pay November rent? Otherwise is she up to date with her rent? As long is she is within the grace period for paying rent, it's not an issue is it?

If you are aware of property damage, you need to address it now. Don't wait for move-out. It's best to assess damage and charge the tenant accordingly anytime you become aware of it. Unless it's significant damage and/or goes unpaid, then I would not mention it as a concern.

I wouldn't expect a tenant to give their Notice to Vacate until they have secured their next place. So that is not an issue either.

Most of all, don't try to make this tenant into a villain in the eyes of the next landlord, when she is doing everything she can to keep you in the loop and work with you. Extend her good wishes as she makes this transition. Don't become her adversary, or you may be faced with a less than pleasant move-out experience.

@Marian Smith the reason i told her that i will see what i can do is because once she gets her voucher she will leave anyway and i can not force her to stay so I'm trying rectify the situation beforehand. I did give her the option to use her voucher for the unit she currently is in but she informed me she had to use it in a different city (that could be a lie). The fact is she been on the waitlist for this assistance since 2008 so no matter what i say or what she has signed I'm sure she will leave once she gets the voucher. She didn't give any notice it was just coming to me to let me know what she was doing. She signed a new lease for 6 months and i did that because i didn't want her lease ending in the winter time. Her security deposit matches rent but not the new rent which she agreed to pay the difference in installments.  

@Marcia Maynard yes i did extend the offer of taking her voucher for section 8 but she declined. I have two other tenants whom are also section 8 so it would not have been an issue. Yes she does have some damage in the unit which i am going to have fixed and give her the bill for it. What i havent mentioned is the tenant and her kids have  been a nuisance for some months now so them leaving isn't necessarily a bad thing, but i don't want to be left high and dry. I am trying to be lenient so her move out is smooth and relieve a potential big headache. Rent is due by the 1st but she has until the 6th to pay(that was in her lease when i purchased the property unfortunately). So I'm trying to hold out on filling out the rental reference until i get that rent check, simply because i feel she's trying to rush the process so she can move this month since i have her last months rent already. Yes she hasn't given a notice and not sure when she will but I'm sure she won't comply with a 30 day notice giving me time to re rent the unit.  

Originally posted by @Remone Randolph :

@Marcia Maynard yes i did extend the offer of taking her voucher for section 8 but she declined. I have two other tenants whom are also section 8 so it would not have been an issue. Yes she does have some damage in the unit which i am going to have fixed and give her the bill for it. What i havent mentioned is the tenant and her kids have  been a nuisance for some months now so them leaving isn't necessarily a bad thing, but i don't want to be left high and dry. I am trying to be lenient so her move out is smooth and relieve a potential big headache. Rent is due by the 1st but she has until the 6th to pay(that was in her lease when i purchased the property unfortunately). So I'm trying to hold out on filling out the rental reference until i get that rent check, simply because i feel she's trying to rush the process so she can move this month since i have her last months rent already. Yes she hasn't given a notice and not sure when she will but I'm sure she won't comply with a 30 day notice giving me time to re rent the unit.  

Thanks for the additional information. A couple of thoughts. First, kudos for being a landlord who works with the Section 8 program and understands the importance of this support for many families in need. Second, since you offered to accept her new form of payment (via Section 8) and thus she has the opportunity to fulfill the rest of her lease term, I wouldn't offer to let her break the lease without penalty. If the lease has a break rent clause, follow that.

 A typical break lease clause will have a penalty equivalent to one or two months rent, or a forfeiture of the security deposit. If there is no break lease clause, then at the most she will be on the hook to pay for the unit until you have another tenant in place. You can of course mutually decide on a lesser amount. If it were me, I might negotiate with her to let her break the lease at any time for the equivalent of one month's rent.

We don't use long term leases, so I'm not so familiar with how breaking a lease is usually handled. You may want to consider a month-to-month agreement for future tenants, as they are more simple and can be quite beneficial for the landlord because with proper notice, you can change the terms at any time. Also, by using M2M agreements, you can avoid having to engage in a renewal process every year or so.

I would contact the tenant now about November rent, either face to face or by telephone. You need to have a real time dialogue. Clarify with her that as per her lease agreement, November rent is now due. Also, until there is a clear date established for end of tenancy, she is obligated to continue to pay rent at the beginning of each month. This is one reason why we never take a deposit for last month rent; it confuses tenants and makes it more difficult for landlords too.

About the reference check... I would not hold up the process. I don't like keeping other landlords waiting, because I don't like to be kept waiting by others when I'm doing reference checks. Instead I would push it. I'd tell the tenant that you received a call from XYZ company for a rental reference. Tell her that you need to receive November rent now, so you can report that the tenant is current with their rent. Also, tell her that it's important for you and the next landlord to know that when it comes time for her to vacate, that proper notice has been given.

About giving notice. Be proactive and ask the tenant what she intends to do. Ask her about her timeline. Give her a "Tenant's Notice to Vacate" form to fill out. Remind her that she is still under contract with you and clarify what the penalty will be for breaking that lease. Operate under a "no surprises" motto.  Works both ways and makes transitions like this go more smoothly. 

I hope this helps! I'll be eager to know how it turns out for you!
Good luck!

@Marcia Maynard thanks it has been a little rocky but it's exciting being a landlord. I don't think all section 8 tenants are bad so I don't frown upon it. I haven't mentioned it to her but I'm thinking of having her pay one months rent in addition to her last months rent I already have. That way we would be covered for 2 months until we find a new occupant. Her lease isn't only 6 months so I'm not sure why she wouldn't just ride it out. I'm goin going over to her unit on Sunday actually to replace the bedroom football her kids damaged and assess any other damage. I figure she has until the 6th to pay her rent and I don't want ask for it before then as she knows I give her a notice to pay if she is late. But I do intend to ask of her timeline and give her that form. And yes i wouldn't do last months rent either but the previous owner did so I got got stuck with that. Thank you for the advice I do appreciate it and will update soon.

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