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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 10244
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing both landlords and tenants in residential and commercial property disputes.
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We were having trouble paying our rent (boss said they'd pay

Customer Question

We were having trouble paying our rent (boss said they'd pay a certain wage then reigned on that amount) and we were tired of having issues with our apart mentioned (such as part of our ceiling coming down). We asked our landlords what our options would be and they said to just hand in the keys (without notice) and move out. This would prevent it from going to court and it would just go to collections.... so we moved out, cleaned the property and turned in the keys. They said that we would owe 4 months rent (when we only had 1 month 3 weeks left on our lease) and they would file in court. Can they do this? We did what they said and now they're changing this on us. We live in Oklahoma.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

I am sorry to learn of this situation.

While there are potentially some other issues going on here that may have been addressed prior to you moving out (damages to the unit making it "uninhabitable") these are not going to be as effective now that you have vacated - but do keep them in mind if this matter really does go to court, it won't hurt you to raise them (at least briefly) in your defense.

As far as your total liability - if you vacate a unit early, the landlord is entitled to the rent for the remainder of the lease, or until they can find a new tenant using reasonable efforts - whichever occurs first. They cannot charge you for an arbitrary time period afterwards.

If you cannot reach a reasonable settlement, in writing, with your landlord directly, try mediation - contact your local bar association and ask for referrals to landlord/tenant mediators (some counties have low cost or free programs). Often a third party neutral can help you break through an impasse.

If you can still not reach an impasse - you may want to consider suing your landlord in small claims court for breach of contract (sue first) - and get a judgment for "declaratory relief" - an order declaring each party's respective rights and responsibilities under the contract.

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