• FreeAdvice has a new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, effective May 25, 2018.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our Terms of Service and use of cookies.

Landlord-Tenant Dispute

Accident - Bankruptcy - Criminal Law / DUI - Business - Consumer - Employment - Family - Immigration - Real Estate - Tax - Traffic - Wills   Please click a topic or scroll down for more.

M

MD_12113

Guest
My husband and I are currently in the middle of a dispute with our previous landlord and we were hoping for some suggestions. We had been renting a house in Maryland for about 2.5 years. For the first two years, we had a formal written lease agreement. Right before the beginning of the third year, our landlord initiated rent increase negotiations with us via email for the next year's monthly rent. We agreed upon a rent increase through an email. The gist of his email stated that the $667.50 monthly rent would be effective for one year from June 1. We wrote back saying only that the rent amount was acceptable to us. When we saw him in person the following month (May 2000), we asked him about signing a third formal lease. He said that if we were comfortable without a lease, then he was as well (my husband and I both heard him say this). So, we never signed a formal lease for the third year. We moved out of the house in November(after giving him > 30 days notice of our plans to leave). We then contacted him last week to work out the return of our security deposit. He wrote back telling us that we were still obligated to pay him rent until he could find a new tenant, saying that we had broken our lease. Did we have a lease with the landlord? Do you think that he can recover the rent for the next 5 or so months from us? Should we be hiring a lawyer?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
 


L

LL

Guest
Landlord Tenant Dispute

Why don't you ask him, "What Lease?" "Show me a copy"

Based on experience, I think that a small-claims judge would not give the landlord any credibility that you had a continuing obligation without an agreement to the obligation IN WRITING.

Obviously, a written agreement would have been better for both of you, but since there was no provable agreement, I think that a small-claims court would be unlikely to hold you to such an agreement.

Based on my experience as a landlord, I genuinely believe that you should send the landlord a letter (certified) asking for the return of your security deposit. My bet is that he won't put the excuse of an unwritten obligation in writing. Don't accept an e-mail as an adequate response. If he sends a e-mail response, print a copy, send it to him (certified) saying you received this e-mail in response to your letter, and that if you do not receive your deposit in, say, 10 days, you will take the matter to court. Then, take him to small-claims court for the security deposit that you think you are entitled to. I feel very strongly that the judge will not allow your landlord to keep the deposit under such conditions.

Good Luck !
 
L

LL

Guest
P.S. Landlord-Tenant Dispute

After re-reading your original post, I see that you gave notice of vacation of > 30 days.

Did the Landlord reply to your notice?
This might be important in s-c court. If he accepted your notice, it's called a surrender (here in California) and any lease is terminated.

Here in California, after a lease expires but the tenants stay, the lease becomes a month-to-month rental agreement.

You did not mention what state this occurred in, but you might check if your state has such a statute.
 
M

MD_12113

Guest
Thanks younglsm for the suggestions.

In our latest correspondence with our landlord, we did ask him to send us a copy of the agreement he says that he has from us. He forwarded us a copy of the email he sent us in April-May stating that the new rent would be effective for one year and a copy of our responding email agreeing to the rent increase. Would an email correspondence like this constitute a legal agreement? Would it hold up in court?
 
L

LL

Guest
I owe you a big apology because I did not read your post carefully (early in the morning in California). Had I read carefully, I would not have written what I did.

I now understand that your problem is that, having had a formal, written lease for two years, you had some kind of agreement about the third year, and that you left during the third year.

Everything depends on exactly what your agreement was, e-mail, verbal, written or otherwise, and what can be proven about it. I am not a lawyer, but I am a landlord with many years experience, including many trips to court, both small claims and evictions in California.

Small claims judges (including commissioners and judges pro-tem) have wide latitude in deciding what to accept or reject. Thus, your question about will the agreement according to the landlord stand up in court is not something that is definite. If the judge (assuming he is well-meaning, fair, intelligent and experienced) thinks that you had an agreement which obligates you, he may find for the landlord and order you to pay. Sometimes, when the facts are not so clear, he may decide that the landlord is the one who should have been more experienced in such matters and let you off the hook.

But the bottom line is, what exactly was your agreement and what can be proved about it. Evidently, the landlord has at least something to show in court about it.

I see so many postings in this web site about tenants who leave during a lease and what to know if they have to pay for the remainder of the lease, I would like to express a few thoughts, based on practical advice: A lease is an agreement, a promise, and generally, promises have to be kept. Perhaps the landlord rented the premises to you based on the assumption that he would not have to fill a vacancy for a year. Perhaps the price he agreed to depended on a full-years lease. Perhaps there are other reasons. Thus, whatever you agreed to, may be a promise that the landlord depended on, and should be reimbursed for his extra costs and loss of rent.

Here in California (and probably elsewhere) the landlord must try to mitigate his losses by looking for a replacement tenant. He has to really try and not just pretend.

My advice to you, if there was any agreement that you would stay for the full year, would be to call the landlord and ask about how the search for a new tenant is going, and can you help? Is he advertising the property? Has he had any inquiries? If not, you could advertise the property yourself (you would owe the cost of advertising, anyway), perhaps even find a new tenant for him. You could have done that as soon as you gave notice, but that doesn't help you now. I sometimes offer replacement tenants a rent discount to fill another tenant's unused term. The vacating tenant is of course, responsible for the difference, but this is usually preferable to paying the entire rent for several months, especially if the property can be rented out immediatly under these conditions.

I still wish you good luck, but your obligation really depends on exactly what was the agreement between you and the landlord, and what can be proven about it. The landlord has to keep his promises, and so do you.
 
Sponsored Ad

Top