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Christopher B, Esq
Christopher B, Esq, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
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Experience:  Litigation Attorney
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My tenant broke the lease 4 months early. He moved out Feb.

Customer Question

my tenant broke the lease 4 months early. He moved out Feb. 3. Lease ends June 14th. Does he retain ANY rights under the lease once he has defaulted and abandoned the premises? For example I never notified the tenant in writing the name and address of the banking institution in which the security deposit was held. And am I held to the 30 day requirement to provide teneant with list of damages after he "surrendered" the property?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 9 months ago.

What state are you from?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
PA
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Are you a real estate attorney?
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Are you there????
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 9 months ago.

Yes, I am here, I was helping another customer. I will get an answer for you.

Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 9 months ago.

My name is***** and I will be helping you with your question today. This is for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney client relationship.

The early termination of the lease does not "surrender" the rights of the tenant under the law and the terms of the lease still apply. You have a contract that is still in effect until June and both parties retain all rights under it except for actual access to the property on the part of the tenant. You will still need to provide a list of damages to the tenant if you want to deduct from their security deposit. You do have the right to deduct the rent owed through the entirety of the lease until June unless you find a tenant to replace them before that time. In essence, you cannot charge double rent. However, you as a landlord in residential leases do have a duty to mitigate damages, that is you must look for a new tenant and decrease the amount of damages that may result from the original tenants' lease. You cannot intentional not rent the property out and must look for a new tenant. When you find a new tenant, the lease from your previous tenant is terminated and the previous tenant is no longer responsible for rent. If you as the landlord do not provide an itemized list, you will lose the right to keep any portion of the security deposit. If you do not return the tenant’s security deposit within the 30 day window, you may be liable to pay the tenant double the amount of the deposit they are owed.

If your lease has an early termination clause, you must follow that. For example, it may say that if you wish to break your lease you must give 3 months notice and pay a penalty of "X" amount. Some leases are silent as to early termination procedure. If so the tenant will owe rent through the entirety of the lease as I discussed earlier.

You must accept the tenant's surrender in order for the lease to be officially terminated as of the day the tenant leaves. The court has ruled that the conduct of the landlord will determine whether or not he or she has accepted the surrender. The court specifically said that a landlord who reassumes possession of the apartment in order to fix it for future prospective tenants has not manifested or shown acceptance of the surrender. The tenant has the burden of proof to show that the landlord indeed accepted the surrender willingly. You do not want the "surrender" to be valid as you want to be able to charge rent until the end of the lease.

Under Pennsylvania law, as you know, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 30 days after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (that is, returned the keys and vacated the property) subject to any valid deductions. For security deposits over $100, landlords in Pennsylvania must deposit the funds in a federally- or state-regulated institution and give the tenant the name and address of the banking institution and the amount of the deposit. This should have been done after two years of the tenancy. Also in Pennsylvania, tenants who occupy a rental unit for two or more years are entitled to interest paid on the security deposit beginning on the 25th month of occupancy.

Please let me know if you have any further questions and please positively rate my answer if satisfied. There should be smiley faces or numbers from 1-5 to choose from. This extra step will cost you nothing extra and will ensure that I will be compensated for my time by the site.

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Please give me your citations when you say, "the court has ruled the conduct of the landlord..." the information is useless to me without the cites. I believe the security deposit can be held to draw down the remaining rent owed so how does the 30 day window apply whken a tenant defaults and abandons?
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 9 months ago.

The security deposit can only be held for money that is owed to you. Not simply because the tenant breaks the lease. Between damages, rent still left to pay on the lease and any other expenses, it is likely that the entire security deposit will be held by you but this is simply on your say so. You have to provide documentation per PA statute. When the tenant terminates the 30 day window applies. You deduct whatever costs you have from the deposit and then can sue them in small claims court for anything additional over the amount of security deposit. When I'm speaking about the court ruling about the landlord conduct, you can make a deal with the tenant to surrender the property in exchange for whatever. You can sign an agreement to end the tenancy early simply because you are being nice and you want to let the tenant out of the lease. Your conduct can be held to end the tenancy by making an agreement with the tenant and the court will take that into account. If you simply take back the keys and inspect the property and prepare it for the next tenant, you are not absolving the prior tenant of his or her obligation to pay rent through the end of the lease.

Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 9 months ago.

Just checking back in, do you have any further questions?

Customer: replied 9 months ago.
You did not answer me. What are the citations?
Expert:  Christopher B, Esq replied 9 months ago.

In general the is the case but I do not have the specific citations on hand and would have to do research regarding the specific case law. This would be an additional service that would cost additional funds if you are interested. This is no something you can simply google and I would have to research this on a paid service such as westlaw or lexus nexus. Hence the additional charges. Is that something you would be interested in?

The best I can do from google:

https://www.landlordology.com/pennsylvania-landlord-tenant-laws/ (see below for specific statute citations)

Within 30 days, landlord shall provide a tenant with a written list of any damages to for which the landlord claims the tenant is liable, along with a refund of all remaining deposit funds. (68 P.S. §§ 250.512)

Any landlord who fails to provide a written list within thirty days, the landlord shall forfeit all rights to withhold any portion of the deposit, including any unpaid interest thereon, or to bring suit against the tenant for damages to the leasehold premises. (68 P.S. §§ 250.512(b))

If the landlord fails to return the remaining deposit, after withholdings, within 30 days, the landlord may be liable for double the deposit amount plus interest. (68 P.S. §§ 250.512(c))

http://www.martindale.com/bankruptcy-law/article_Blank-Rome-LLP_62674.htm This language:

"The landlord responded to tenant's termination letter with his letter in which he declared the lease terminated, instructed the tenant to surrender the property and invoked the rent acceleration clause. The court found that the landlord did not intend by that letter to release the tenant of its obligations under the lease for future rent.

The lease contained customary provisions obligating the tenant to keep the premises "in a clean and safe condition," and obligating the tenant to restore the property upon termination "in as good condition as when tenant entered into possession. . . "

and

"On the tenant's argument that the landlord could not recover damages because it accepted a surrender of the property, Black made it clear that surrender could only be accomplished by the agreement of both parties, and unless the landlord accepts the tenant's surrender, "the surrender does not terminate the tenant's obligations under the lease." Whether there has been an acceptance of a tenant's surrender is primarily a question of the landlord's intent. In the landlord's letter, he had made it clear that he was not releasing the tenant from any further obligations under the lease. In addition, bringing in the new tenant and permitting renovations for that tenant is not an acceptance of surrender if the landlord's purpose is to protect the property or to mitigate the damages from the tenant's breach of lease.

The court held that a lease may not be rescinded by the decision of the tenant alone. That tenant cannot relieve itself of the obligation to pay rent by simply vacating the property and notifying the landlord that the lease is terminated. "Yet that is precisely what Tenant has attempted in this case. Tenant vacated the Premises and with its letter of June 18, 2002, declared the lease terminated as of June 30, 2002. This unilateral attempt to terminate the lease was ineffective."

The court stated:

Clearly, the parties could not have intended that the mere presence of mold would give either of them a right to terminate the Lease. If that interpretation were to be adopted, no lease would be safe because the appearance of mold is a very common occurrence in buildings. That is the very reason why most property insurance policies contain exclusions from mold."

The landlord then followed up with a second letter notifying tenant that he had secured another tenant and that the rents from this new tenant would reduce the landlord's damage claim against the tenant. The new tenant, soon began occupying the property, but was granted a rent abatement for the first two months and a rent reduction for the next five months, because of renovations it was making to the property. The new lease was month-to-month. The dispute is over whether the landlord can recover over $400,000 in accelerated rent, which is net of a credit he was willing to give to the tenant for rent paid and renovations done by the new tenant."

Here is some case law in general for PA: https://clsphila.org/sites/default/files/issues/Landlord%20Tenant%20Summary%20of%20Frequently%20Cited%20Case%20Law.pdf

Please let me know if you have any further questions and please positively rate my answer if satisfied. There should be smiley faces or numbers from 1-5 to choose from. This extra step will cost you nothing extra and will ensure that I will be compensated for my time by the site.

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