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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 102584
Experience:  Attorney
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My son lost s job in DC and had to move to Florida with me.

Customer Question

My son lost his job in DC and had to move to Florida with me. When he moved from his apartment, the agent, James, working for rental properties in the building told him "I got you brother so you don't have to pay the termination fee of $900 to break the lease. I will have your apartment rented." My son had a period of 10 days to pay the termination/breakage fee after turning in his keys. My son was also told by James that he had the apartment rented. Finally my son was able to reach James. He then informed him the prospective renters changed their mind. The monthly rent is approximately $1,800 per month. Unfortunately there was nothing in writing to break the agreement. With the agent James it was a gentlemen's agreement and solidified with a hand shake. James has made it very hard to reach him by phone. My son is out of work and cannot pay the monthly rental fee. Apparently it is easier to keep my son on the hook to pay monthly for the remainder of the year, which would be around eight (8) months of rent. This sounds like a scam to me. Is there anything he can do to simply pay the breakage fee and not be responsible for a monthly rental fee for the eight (8) remaining months?
Thanking you in advance for your prompt response to this request.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note:This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

I am sorry to hear about this situation. On this website, I do not always get to give good news, and this is one of these times. I understand that hearing things less than optimal is not easy, and I empathize. Thanks in advance for not "shooting the messenger."

1) There is something called the parol evidence rule. What this means is that if there is a verbal agreement and a written agreement about the same thing, then the written agreement is presumed as valid and overrides the verbal agreement. It is possible to introduce verbal agreements in cases of fraud, etc, but it is very hard to do, and especially if the other party (James) flat out denies stating this, as he likely would.

2) Since there is no proof of James stating this, then the written agreement is taken as is, meaning it is enforceable.

3) Now, the breach of contract is by your son. And in breaching contract, he is liable for the remaining rent. However, while it is presumed that he is liable for all the remaining rent, he can claim an affirmative defense of mitigating damages. A Plaintiff has a duty to mitigate damages (see McCord v. Green, 362 A. 2d 720 - DC: Court of Appeals 1976 for general discussion). This means that the landlord has to then make reasonable attempts to re-rent the property, and if he does, then your son should only be liable for the time that the property stood empty during his broken lease period. If the landlord did not make reasonable attempts to re-rent, then the Court may at its discretion minimize the liability, although not all of eight months, but possibly 2-3, etc, depending on the Judge.

Good luck.

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I hope this helps and clarifies. Please use the SEND or REPLY button to keep chatting, or please RATE when finished. You may always ask follow ups at no charge after rating. Kindly rate my answer as one of TOP THREE FACES/STARS and then SUBMIT, as this is how experts get credit for our time. Rating my answer the bottom two faces/stars (or failing to submit the rating) does not give me credit and reflects poorly on me, even if my answer is correct. I work very hard to formulate an informative and honest answer for you; please reciprocate my good faith with a positive rating.

Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.

Hello again. This is a courtesy check in to see if you needed anything else in regards ***** ***** question. I am simply touching base. Let me know. Thanks!