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RE Q&A: What Are Tenant Rights if Breaking a Lease?

A new homebuyer wants to leave his apartment three months early. He offered candidates to take his place, but they were rejected. What happens next?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: I just purchased a home and need to break my current lease that expires on Oct. 31. I have tried working with my landlord and have referred multiple applicants to transfer the remainder of the lease to and he continues to reject all of them saying they are not qualified. I gave written notice in June to move out by the end of July. What are my rights? – Mike

Answer: When you sign a lease agreement, you are on the hook for the rent for the entire time you agreed to even if you move out early.

A landlord has several options when a tenant terminates early. When a tenant moves out early, most landlords retake possession of the vacated property and try to find another tenant.

This is known as taking the property back for the tenant’s benefit because the amount you would owe your landlord is reduced by the rent paid by the new tenant until the end of your original lease term. In other words, your landlord cannot collect rent from you and the new tenant for the same month.

While your landlord also has the option of leaving the property empty and trying to collect the missed rent from you, this is often a bad idea because of the difficulty in collecting the lost rent from a departed tenant.

When your landlord retakes possession and tries to find a new tenant to fill your shoes, he must make reasonable efforts to do so, such as listing it or putting a notice on the appropriate website.

Lawyers say that he must “mitigate his damages” because if he does not put in the effort, a judge can reduce the amount you owe him by the amount he would have recovered had he put reasonable efforts into marketing for a new tenant.

If your landlord ended up not getting a new tenant for the remainder of your lease term, the fact that he turned away the prospects you referred to him could serve to get you off the hook.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.