Breaking lease BUT owner wants to sell - whats a win/win there?

9 Replies

We're 7 months into a 12 month lease, and are closing on a home. We notified our landlords early (45+ days notice) and they've decided to sell. Washington State.

I'm trying to find out our obligations on this lease contract when Owners wants to Sell. Washington rental law (and our contract) only refer to mitigating damages to get another renter into the property. Nothing about any other circumstances, like Selling.

We gave them a move-out date, and they said either the new realtor or one of would meet us for the Inspection. To make it official, I sent a mutual lease termination agreement to the Owners that is a simple change to the Move-In date (Tenant Union recommended). Owners said they are afraid to sign it because they don't know how the house will sell.

Does anyone have experience with this dance? The house will not sell quickly given several factors, and we don't believe we should be on the hook for $10k+ while they learn the market. We understand we are breaking lease, but want to close this out in a win/win.

Thanks!


This is worthy of a law school exam hypothetical regarding causation (see Palsgraf case for more fun on this subject).  I could see it come out a dozen ways.  

Have you tried to offer a sum (e.g., one month's rent) in exchange for a walk away agreement?

@Nic Werner It is generally a lot easier to sell a SFR without a tenant than with one. Especially now and even more so in Wa. So that is a win. You have an obligation to fulfill your lease and whatever it says about early termination. So that is not a win but If I were your LL I would wish you God speed and there would be the win-win.

I'm not an expert on Seattle law, but this is a pretty common issue addressed by every state I'm aware of. I'm also super good-looking, so everything I say should be strictly adhered to.

When you break a lease, the Landlord can hold you liable for rent, utilities, landscaping, or any other responsibilities. However, the Landlord also has a responsibility to make a "good faith effort" to mitigate the damages. If you called him today and said you had to move out tomorrow, he has a responsibility to find a replacement renter as quickly as possible under the same terms and conditions as you were under. You are only held liable up until the new renter takes over.

If the Landlord chooses to list the property for sale instead of renting it, they are not making a "good faith effort" to mitigate your damages. Therefore, they should release you from all terms of the agreement without penalty.

Originally posted by @Nic Werner :

We're 7 months into a 12 month lease, and are closing on a home. We notified our landlords early (45+ days notice) and they've decided to sell. Washington State.

I'm trying to find out our obligations on this lease contract when Owners wants to Sell. Washington rental law (and our contract) only refer to mitigating damages to get another renter into the property. Nothing about any other circumstances, like Selling.

We gave them a move-out date, and they said either the new realtor or one of would meet us for the Inspection. To make it official, I sent a mutual lease termination agreement to the Owners that is a simple change to the Move-In date (Tenant Union recommended). Owners said they are afraid to sign it because they don't know how the house will sell.

Does anyone have experience with this dance? The house will not sell quickly given several factors, and we don't believe we should be on the hook for $10k+ while they learn the market. We understand we are breaking lease, but want to close this out in a win/win.

Thanks!


You're on the hook until they actually list or the lease expires. It's best to get any agreement in writing though, whatever you do.

 

From my readings in how to be a Landlord; typically what judges & courts award Landlords from tenants who break leases & move out, are the equalent of what the rental payment is, for 2 months, + plus forfeiture of the tenants' deposit or deposits. Apparently judges decide that it usually takes 2 months for Landlords to get a Rental cleaned, possibly painted, & with acceptable new tenants. And in these recent decades in the U.S. of new laws for tenants' rights, the idea of a Landlord collecting on the remainder of what is left, unpaid on a signed lease, beyond said 2 months; this is a pipe dream that belongs back in former centuries, when Capitalists got away with much more, than they now are allowed to do.

Originally posted by @Nic Werner :

@John Farady thanks for the reply, do you have any sources or anything to look at that references what you are saying?

Your Question: "do you have any sources or anything to look at that references what you are saying?"
 It's called "Ethics".

But, here are the circumstances that allow you to break a lease in Seattle with out financial repercussion,

1.) U.S.C.A. § § 501 and following, 2.) RCW § § 59.18.100, .110, .115, 3.) RCW § § 4.) 59.18.575 4.) RCW § 59.18.150

However, Under the just cause eviction ordinance (like selling the house) the landlord must give 90 days notice (not a 20-day notice). The date to terminate the tenancy (the date the tenant is to vacate) must be the last day of a rental period—usually but not necessarily the last day of a calendar month. The notice must be served at least 90 days in advance. It is not correct to simply add 90 days to the current date.

However, for you, If you don’t have a legal justification to break your lease, you may still be off the hook for paying all the rent due for the remaining lease term. This is because under Washington law (RCW § 59.18.310), your landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent your unit—no matter what your reason for leaving—rather than charge you for the total remaining rent due under the lease. So you may not have to pay much, if any additional rent, if you break your lease. You need pay only the amount of rent the landlord loses because you moved out early. This is because Washington requires landlords to take reasonable steps to keep their losses to a minimum—or to “mitigate damages” in legal terms.