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socrateaser, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 39140
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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My mother had a lease agreement as landlord with an Oil Change

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My mother had a lease agreement as landlord with an Oil Change Company that ended at the end of May 2012. When the Company removed the used oil storage tanks they made an absolute mess with oil and water now standing three plus feet in the basement. I was told personally by the Oil Company that they were responsible for the cleanup. It is now May 2013 and the mess is still there. I had a new tenant that wanted to lease the building back in September of 2012 but because of the oil mess he said he would only lease it after the mess was cleaned up. We were sent temination of lease papers from the oil company but havent signed them because the orginal lease agreement stated that the building would be left in reasonable condition which it is not. Can the oil change company be sued for loss of rent and not living up to their contract obligations? I dont know what to do. Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

You're going to need to hire a commercial landlord-tenant lawyer to sue the oil company. The damage for the cost of cleanup is recoverable. However, the lost rent is not recoverable, because your mother has an obligation to "mitigate damages." This means that she should have immediately taken steps to demand a cleanup or payment for cleanup -- or file suit to force the cleanup.

By delaying, the oil company tenant can claim that your mother could have obtained rent, had she immediately cleaned up the property. Your mother's defense might be that she couldn't afford to do so, but that's probably not going to get very far with a jury, because they are likely to believe that any landlord ought to be able to have the resources to maintain their property.

Anyway, botXXXXX XXXXXne, your mother has a lawsuit against the oil company, and the sooner she acts to demand payment and sue, the better off it will be for her -- and you.

For a lawyer referral, see this link.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

My Step-father was the one who handled the lease but he passed away in 2006. My mom just turned 80 years old. I'm just trying to help out because she doesnt know that much about it. Cost of cleanup is anywhere from 6000 to 8000 dollars. We were told by the oil company not to sign the termination papers until they had the oil cleaned up. They knew I had a tenant interested in the building because I told them. Thank you for your help.

Please understand, I'm not at all trying to make anyone feel bad about failing to act timely about this issue. I'm just explaining how the court views a landlord's duty. By delaying, the tenant/oil company can claim that your mother failed to mitigate damages, and the court may decide that's sufficient to avoid liability for future rent that your mother could have obtained from a new tenant.

But, the cleanup is definitely the tenant's problem, and once you demand cleanup or the money to pay for it, then from that point forward, you can claim rent, if you can show a prospective new tenant who would have taken occupancy but for the former tenant's failure to leave the property in the same condition as it was granted.

Hope this helps.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The oil company didnt remove all of their equipment until at least 5 months after the lease terminated. They had the locks changed twice to get in the building by whomever they contracted to do it. This was done without me or my mother being notified. My last question is was this legal?

Oh. That would give your mother grounds to demand rent for the same five months, because the tenant never relinquished complete possession.

Removal of the equipment after lease termination and changing the locks is a trespass -- but, I don't see that this would get you additional damages because the additional rent is probably more than you could get as damages for trespass.

Hope this helps.