Potential example of Surrender of lease by Operation of The Law?

1 Reply

This is a pretty strange situation, but I like to hear opinions.

So, I had signed a lease from January 7, 2017 - January 31, 2018. While I truly wanted to move out earlier in the year, I opted against it specifically because I had no intention of breaking the lease. (It is important to note that I misunderstood the prorating first months rent part of the lease - which is the only reason I didn't question the actions of the landlord in the following proceedings.)

November 2 - I found out that I could sign my lease for my new apartment on January 15, 2018 (which was awkwardly on a Monday) but if I could avoid paying rent for two apartments I wanted to give it a try. So, on November 2 I emailed my apartment telling them of my intended move-out date January 15, they told me it was fine and that I just needed to do a walk through before moving out (she never mentioned I needed to schedule this btw). It was not made clear the lease would still be in effect and I would be responsible for entire month. 

January 1 - I checked my invoice provided by the apartment (as I did the previous 11 months) and THEY had prorated my rent and water bill to January 15 rather than for the entire month at which point It seemed clear that they agreed with me moving out "early". I paid that prorated rent in full and never received a notice or anything that I hadn't paid for the full months rent.  I moved forward with plans of moving out Jan 15. (I had to take time off work for this move because it was a Monday) It was not made clear the lease would still be in effect and I would be responsible for entire month. 

January 15 - I moved all my stuff out and I went to the office to return the keys. When I did so, she told me I was supposed to have scheduled the walk-through and when I told her I didn't have time that day to do so, she told me it wasn't required, I could just leave the keys (and parking passes and laundry card) and a forwarding address to send me the security deposit refund. Which I did accordingly. It was not made clear the lease would still be in effect and I would be responsible for entire month. 

Then on February 14 I got (what I thought was my security deposit refund) a bill. On this bill they included with dates and descriptions as follows: 

January 1, 2018 : (15 days) Rent Charge

January 1, 2018: (15 days) Rent Payment

January 15, 2018: Security Deposit Refund

January 15, 2018: Rent for Remainder of Lease Charge

January 15, 2018: Security Deposit Withheld for Rent charges

January 15, 2018: Difference of Remainder of Rent Charge

Something to note - If I knew I was going to be responsible for the apartment for the entire month (1. the told me when I gave notice, 2. They charged me for full months rent or 3. They told me when I gave them the keys) I would have paid the rent in full. Had I realized that I was still going to be held accountable for the apartment I would not have moved out on Monday but rather waited until the weekend. And, I would have scheduled a walk-through for later in the month. If I had enough notice, I would have even left utilities in my name for full term of lease like some leases require. 

It feels very sneaky, like they deceived me into thinking I was in the clear so I would give them the keys early - and then they turn around to make me pay for the rest of the month while they used the time to turn the apartment over or maybe even moved someone in? But even if someone had not moved in how is this fair, to trick a tenant into moving out early?

When I spoke to them about it, they basically told me that this is how they do it and that because the lease was contracted through January 31 I should have known I would still be responsible for rent even after vacating the premise, taking my name off utilities (including the prorated water bill they supply) and giving them the keys, and paying the prorated rent they charged me.

*Just a note - nowhere in the lease does it state that if I move out early they will prorate my rent and then after I move out charge me again for additional rent

My real question: Do their 3 actions (prorating the rent, accepting the keys, 'refunding' the security deposit) all constitute as them accepting my surrender of the apartment/lease on January 15? Is it fair that I was deceived and moved out earlier than I had to? Are they entitled to the additional rent and my security deposit (which btw was not documented to be used for any damages)?

the lease legally obligates you to pay until Jan 31. Unless you have something in writing from property managers saying you can break the lease on the 15th, without fee, it will be difficult to argue that they were letting you out. right now it is a "he said, she said" situation, assuming everything was verbal. billing you prorated rent for January is your only indication that "maybe" they were letting you out early with no fee. if you took this in front of a judge, which is what you will need to do to recoup your loss, it would be up to him to decide who is right and who is wrong.

many counties have free legal aid for tenant issues. my suggestion, run it by them and see what they say. if they agree with you, a strongly worded letter may get you your money. if not, you have to go to court, and you will have to decide if half a months rent is worth all that trouble.

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