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Richard, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 55699
Experience:  32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.
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In need of guidance/advice: On March 29th 2012 I signed a

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In need of guidance/advice:
On March 29th 2012 I signed a 2 year lease for our rental home in Gainesville Va. When I signed the lease I added an addendum under “transfer of tenant” that was in regards XXXXX XXXXX termination of lease stating “to a place of employment (healthcare facility) or graduate academic program that increases the commute to an unreasonable and unmanageable length of time”. Now 1.5 years into the 2 year lease, I was accepted to XXXXX XXXXX University and begin in August. I gave a 30 day notice, and explained the reason why my notice was not 60 days, as I was awaiting acceptance letters from various programs. There is a clause below which states that the penalty for early termination is 1 months rent if the contract is terminated within 6 months of occupancy, and ½ months rent if it is terminated after 6 months. The property manager is sue happy and states that our penalty will be a full months rent plus any rent up until a new tenant moves in. I have already been advertising the home and have 5 highly interested future tenants, but the property manager states the home owner still has not signed the appropriate paperwork to get the property “back on the market”. Also the homeowner is “considering putting in new flooring”, and I anticipate they are going to wait until we move out, and then start remodeling the home (in no way connected to any damages we caused), and then try to charge us rent for the home while they complete work on the property to increase the property value and therefore increase the rent for the next tenant. When I approached the property manager regarding the clause I added regarding the “graduate program” she states that the home owner never accepted that clause and crossed it out, however, my real estate agent at the time states she was never told that they had refused or rejected my clause. My real estate agent when I signed the lease knew that I needed a potential lease escape in case I started my graduate school during my 2 year lease. The property manager states there is no “wiggle or negotiation here” and threatens that if I don’t pay the full months rent fine, plus rent until the next tenant moves in, then she will pursue “lawyer fees, and wage garnishments”. They are using lawsuits as a bully tactic, and I need advice.
Welcome! My goal is to do my very best to understand your situation and to provide a full and complete answer for you.

Good morning. The property manager doesn't get to make up the rules. Although you can never prevent someone from filing a suit, he's not going to prevail. One, your contractual addendum is going to be held to be valid. The property manager and landlord have no legal right to challenge this provision now that you are terminating. Had they not found it acceptable, they had legal obligation to inform you before moving in. Two, even had you not had that provision, once a tenant has notified the landlord the tenant is terminating, the landlord has a legal affirmative duty to mitigate the damages...meaning he must use reasonable efforts to re-let the property. Once the property is re-let, or if the landlord does not use reasonable efforts to re-let...which the property manager is obviously failing by either not accepting the tenants proposed by you and by making improvements rather than renting, you are off the hook for further obligation.

Thank you so much for allowing me to help you with your questions. I have done my best to provide information which will be helpful to you. If I have not fully addressed your questions or if you have any follow up questions, or if I have misinterpreted your questions in any way, please do not rate me yet, but simply ask a follow up question without rating so I can provide you with a fully satisfactory answer. If I have fully answered your question(s) to your satisfaction, I would appreciate you rating my service with 3, 4, or 5 faces/stars so I can receive credit for helping you today. I thank you in advance for taking the time to provide me a positive rating!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I added the provision when I signed the lease, they crossed out the provision and submitted it as the "final lease" without ever asking the real estate agent who was representing me, whether I was ok without the provision. They state that even if they keep the provision, that my graduate school is only 35 miles away and they consider that to be a reasonable commute, and therefore will not value it. I need to know what strategy to take to negotiate or file a lawsuit or protect myself from one. I am wondering whether I should not pay the rent for the last month to let them eat up the security deposit, they have threatened to use for the "penalty". My child custody attorney, said I can argue in court that there is in fact "no valid contract" since they did not accept my addendum and I never accepted their changes. The question is should I just move out, not pay the fees, and sort it out in court, or should I file a suit representing myself. Should I use up the security deposit for the last months rent because of their threats, to protect myself. Can you compile an attorney letter on my behalf stating they they have manipulated contract law? How do I prepare as I am weeks away from moving out, and they still have not posted the home for rent online, or allowed us to show the home to many people interested in renting it.


Thanks for following up. Unfortunately, under my terms of service with JustAnswer, I'm not allowed to write a letter, but I can address your issues specifically and I think you can easily craft a letter using the information I have provided. If you submitted this counter offer (by the addendum), they either had the obligation to accept it or reject it. If they rejected it without you signing again, then their rejection terminated your counter offer lease. Thus, since you never signed a contract that did not have this provision, you are essentially a month to month tenant rather than being obligated. Thus, the landlord is in a no win situation....either accepting the lease with the addendum or you are a month to month tenant with no lease and only required to give a 30 day notice. On the distance question, a court is going to rule a 35 mile commute is unreasonable. To avoid the property manager having any claim against you, I would pay the rent, and then if the property manager doesn't return your deposit when you leave, file a claim to get it back in small claims court. Once the suit is filed and a judgment awarded, you become a judgment creditor, and if the losing party doesn’t then pay the judgment, you can have the sheriff serve a summons on the losing party for a debtor examination. That forces the losing party to meet the judgment creditor in court and answer questions under oath about the losing party's assets. After that information is obtained, the judgment creditor has the power to garnish wages, attach bank accounts, have the sheriff seize other personal property, and/or place liens on any non-homestead property to satisfy the judgment.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

What the property manager made me sign under penalty of legal action was a contract stating I was going to pay a 1700.00 penalty for early lease termination before she would even put the property on the market. I payed half of that, and am supposed to pay another half for them to sign a new lease with a new tenant. How should I address this? Should I refuse to pay the other half and wait for the lawsuit, should I be bold enough to ask for that payment back since the contract is nullified? How should I approah this?

Thanks for your follow up. I would not only not pay the other half, I would let the property manager know if the 1/2 you paid is not returned, you will be filing a claim against him in small claims court to get it back. And, let him know that if forced to do so, you will be asking not only for your actual damages, but punitive damages as well. The judge will not be amused by the property manager's actions.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

And you believe I can do all of this representing myself?

I do....based on your narrative, I believe you're well equipped! :) Plus, the landlord tenant laws are biased in favor of tenants to protect tenants from property managers such as you are encountering. I think you'll do fine!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Do I tell the property manager that I have consulted with an attorney and explain why I am a month to month tenant because of the way they changed my addendum without telling my agent or ever having us sign off on the changes? How exactly should I talk to the manager?

At this point, if I were you, I would avoid any further personal interaction with the property manager. Rather, I would set out your points in a letter sent to the landlord and the property manager setting forth all your points. It's better that you now create a paper trail of your issues.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

All I can do is submit information to the property manager since I have no contact or address for the owner. The property manager states that if I try to look her up and contact or meet with her, that they will file a "restraining order". So to recap, I send an email to the property manager asking her to please forward it to the homeowner. I explain again that I added the clause regarding gradaute school on my copy of the lease, and that I would not have signed off on the lease if they did not accept my clause. They crossed off my changes, and never told told my real estate agent, (although my agent retrospectively found their email with a lease attachement with the owners changes) but they never divulged the changes, only sent the changes as an attachment in an email without making them clear. I could foresee having to call in my agent in my defense.... So I explain how because I never signed off on their changes to the lease, the lease is actually a month by month lease, and therefore is not subject to termination fees with a 30 day notice. I request the return of my penalty payment explaining that I would pursue the payment in small claims court. I explain that I have left the home in better conditiont than when I arrived, and have provided many interested renters to the owner to choose from and they have not been proactive in rerenting the property. Then I leave it at that, I should pay the last months rent. And if they try to hold my security deposit as a means of paying the penalty, I fild a case in small claims court. Is that about right?

Thanks for following up. That is correct. And, notwithstanding what the property manager says, you have every right to look up the owner and contact her. This just shows how out of touch the property manager is with the law....he has zero chance to get a restraining order in this situation.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Last few points. I have attached a copy of something I wrote up real quick, just let me know if I should add or remove anything. Thanks



We request that you please forward this email to the homeowner Patricia.

I have been in contact with legal services regarding the pending lease termination. When I signed the original lease I added an addendum regarding the “potential change of employment or start of a gradate program”, which is on page 9 of 12. I submitted that lease. Your response was that the owner rejected my addendum to the lease, and that information was emailed to my real estate agent Chrissi Chapman. After consulting with Ms. Chapman, we are in agreement that we never accepted your changes to my addendum. Yourself or the homeowner merely crossed out my addendum and signed the lease. I was never in agreement with those changes, and did not find out my clause was rejected by the homeowner until our communication July 11th, 2012. Therefore after consulting with a legal advisor, no legal lease was ever established, and we are on a month per month agreement which holds no termination fee with a 30 day notice. We not only will be unable to pay the additional 50% of the penalty, but we will need our original 50% penalty returned or we will pursue them in small claims court.


Thank you

Cory Lucas

That's great. I would add you expect your security deposit as well.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I will do that, when I respond in my email, can I mention your name or firm or anything of that sort? Can I use our communication in a potential small claims case?



Under our terms of service with JustAnswer, we can only provide information. Thus, you will have to limit your reference to the fact that you have consulted with an attorney. We are not allowed to provide personal information. I'm sorry!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, I hope that I can use your advice to protect myself from potential negative legal actions and reclaim the penalty I have lost.


You're very's been my pleasure to help! I think you'll do fine with this!
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