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J.Hazelbaker
J.Hazelbaker, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4385
Experience:  Attorney and small business owner with 10 years experience in the general practice of law.
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I have been spending time in California since the Fall of 2010

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I have been spending time in California since the Fall of 2010 since my son started college at UCDavis. My family home is based in Washington DC. After having had a one-year lease at for my apartment, I renewed my lease for one year on Sept 1, 2011 with another one year lease (sept 1 2011-aug 31 2012).

However, I have Parkinson's Disease and traveling back and forth between California and Wash DC has become increasingly difficult. Accordingly, with my PD doctors advise I have decided to consolidate my living arrangements in Washington DC. With the medical support letters provided by my neurologist and GP, I have on medical grounds requested the management of my apartment building to grant me an early termination of my lease agreement with whatever appropriate penalties for early termination. However, the building management has declined my request without providing any explanation or reason. They expect me to pay the prospective rent for the remaining of the lease period (ie for the remaining 7 months !). The previous General Manager of the building had indicated to me that on medical grounds I could get an early termination. But the new GM that took over in early February is not willing to give consideration.

What are my options ?

J.Hazelbaker :

Hello.

J.Hazelbaker :

Thank you for using JustAnswer.

J.Hazelbaker :

While the landlord can refuse to terminate the lease early, even on medical grounds,

J.Hazelbaker :

under California law, the landlord has a duty to "mitigate damages" if you terminate the lease early.

J.Hazelbaker :

This means that, if you put the landlord on notice that you will be terminating the lease, the landlord must use "reasonable efforts" to find a replacement tenant.

J.Hazelbaker :

If the landlord does use reasonable efforts, it is likely that they will find a replacement. You would only be liable for rent during the period that it takes them to find that replacement.

J.Hazelbaker :

If the landlord does not use reasonable efforts, then you are not obligated for rent after the date on which they could have found a tenant had reasonable efforts been used.

Customer:

hello

Customer:

thanks

J.Hazelbaker :

Thus, the strategy to use is to send the landlord/management company written notice that you intend to vacate on the specified date.

J.Hazelbaker :

You should send this notice by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested so that you can prove it was sent and that they received it.

J.Hazelbaker :

You should tell them that you are putting them on notice of your intent to vacate due to serious medical reasons, as you have already informed them, and that you will vacate by [date].

J.Hazelbaker :

You should inform them that you will make the apartment available for them to show to prospective tenants at their request.

Customer:

I have given notice of intent to vacate in November and vacated the apartment in mid_december. The previous GM was looking for a tenant for the apt but the new GM is not making any efforts.

J.Hazelbaker :

Finally, you should inform them that the notice begins their legal obligation to mitigate damages and you will be monitoring their efforts.

J.Hazelbaker :

As long as that is the case, then they would not be able to charge you rent after they stopped using reasonable efforts.

J.Hazelbaker :

They can't sit on their hands and charge you for the 7 months of rent.

Customer:

As background, at the time of renewal of my lease last august I had preferred for a six month renewal. But I was asked to go ahead with a one lease and if I had to terminate early the previous GM said they would find a tenant to take over my lease period.

J.Hazelbaker :

You would have to be able to find that previous GM and get a statement from him to help support that position. But, if you could get that statement, it would strengthen your case.

Customer:

While I am in dispute with the new GM, and given that I handed a set of keys to the mgmt office upon departure, should I continue to pay the monthly rent ?

J.Hazelbaker :

I would not pay the monthly rent at this point.

J.Hazelbaker :

You have paid two months, as I understand it.

J.Hazelbaker :

That is enough time, had they been using reasonable efforts.

Customer:

I paid for January. Begin of Febraury the new GM took and while in discussion with him I have not paid for Febraury. February the ne GM made no efforts of showing the apt or even talking to me or returning my calls.

J.Hazelbaker :

If you haven't paid for February, I wouldn't worry about it at this time, unless you think it would mollify them.

J.Hazelbaker :

At this point, I would end contact with them.

Customer:

I do not mind sending in February rent...and even March. If they are willing to take over responsibility for renting thereafter.

J.Hazelbaker :

The problem is that you won't get them to agree to this in writing, which is what you need to protect yourself.

Customer:

and terminate the lease

J.Hazelbaker :

Thus, I would simply hold it.

J.Hazelbaker :

Perhaps you can contact them and make the offer that, if they send you something in writing that they will release you from the lease, if you pay through march, that you will send payment. It would be good to throw in there what you know about their duty to mitigate to give them some incentive to work with you.

J.Hazelbaker :

Otherwise, if they refuse, I would drop the issue at this point.

Customer:

Thanks I will follow that approach. Send a letter with that offer, and their lack of best efforts since february to find a tenant. Send payment (2 mths rent) if they agree in writing to my proposal

J.Hazelbaker :

Correct.

J.Hazelbaker :

Please let me know what follow-up questions you have. If my above responses have been helpful, please click Accept so that I get credit for the time/effort. You may always restart the thread and ask follow-up questions at any time by clicking the “Reply” button at the bottom of the question/answer thread. You can access this thread later in your profile under the “My Questions” tab.

Customer:

In effect, I have given them notice to vacate in Nov, vacated apt in mid Dec, and thereafter they are given three months (Jan-March) reasonable efforts to find a replacement tenant.

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