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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 111550
Experience:  Licensed attorney practicing landlord-tenant, land use and other real estate law and litigation.
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I have an account in collections from a lease I broke in

Customer Question

I have an account in collections from a lease I broke in 2013. I went into the office to terminate the lease because I had lost my job and had to leave San Diego because of the cost of living was too high. They told me to fill out the lease termination form and turn it in which I did the same day. They told me that I would owe one months rent plus the rest of the current month.
When I called back 2 weeks later from out of town to find out what my final expense would be, they told me I had not exercised my lease termination and had instead just abandoned my apartment and would be required to continue paying until they found new renters. That meant $2300 per month while I was out of a job. When I disputed it, they said to look at my contract (which by the way they never mentioned when I was in the office to get the paperwork or when I dropped it off) and it states that the one months rent and rest of the current months rent check was due at the same time the paperwork for lease termination was turned in.
This was not on the lease termination paperwork anywhere. I spoke with someone in the law office where they sent the collections account and he seemed to think that there was case law stating that the lease termination language from the lease agreement must also appear on the lease termination paperwork and since it was not there, I should be able to have the debt removed, collections account removed, and be reimbursed for a portion of the amount I had already paid before it went to collections.
Could you verify this?
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 4 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
Under law, in CA they have only 4 years to sue you from the date you breached the contract. If they did not sue you and get a judgment against you and the breach was from 2013, then they have to sue you to enforce the debt.
The lease termination terms must appear clearly either in the lease contract or the lease termination letter, but as long as they appear in the lease, it is the tenant's duty to refer to their lease when terminating the lease (not all landlords have termination "forms" so the law does not say that the termination language must appear on the form, it just has to be clearly explained in the lease itself).
If they have not sued you for the debt yet, then negotiating resolution with the debt collector is your best option to try to settle the debt, since you did break the lease. You need to contact the firm and offer some settlement to them to see if they will accept some settlement, especially if the landlord rented the premises out again to another tenant you can use that as your defense for not owing the full amount.

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