Home › Forums › Real Estate › Can landlord keep part of security deposit JUST for breaking the lease? › Reply To: Can landlord keep part of security deposit JUST for breaking the lease?
I’m not a lawyer either but I think it’s definitely legal. As you said, the law does not include “fees for breaking the lease” as an illegal clause. Plus, I’ve seen both break-lease fees and seen rental companies talk about imposing them before in DC.
Remember, you’re technically on the hook for the remainder of your lease if you decide to break it early as you signed the contract for that specific length of time. Does DC have a law which requires that the landlord look for a new tenant if you vacate the property before the end of the contract? If not, they could just let the unit sit empty and take you to court for the remaining payments which could be thousands depending on your rent and the time left… (some places have that law, others don’t – i honestly don’t know if DC does or not).
The few times I’ve considered/had to break a lease early, I’ve followed mcmegan’s policy of trying to talk about it with the landlord in advance and work with them to reach an agreement that’s good for both of us. The first time in moving from WI to DC, my WI place was willing to let me out early if I could find a new tenant to sign a new 1-yr lease. I posted it to craigslists, answered questions/took phonecalls on my cell, did showings/open houses, and even offered my own rent concession out-of-pocket. It was a pain to juggle on top of packing/cleaning to move but I got it rented with only having to pay for 2 extra weeks rather than 8 months. The second time with a job offer in NYC, my DC place was going to charge a break-lease fee of 3x the rent to let me out early in addition to me having to pay until it re-rented for another 1-yr lease/my lease expired. They wouldn’t waive that fee regardless of whether I found a new renter for them or not. In that case, I choose to stick it out and pass on the NYC job as I didn’t want to pay that large of a fee and do all the work.
But you really never know until you talk to your landlord – hopefully they’ll be willing to work with you to reach an agreement that works for both of you. My only other adivce if you get stuck in a pay until new renter signs situation – at a minimum take responsibility for posting it. Take good photos, measurements are always a huge plus, put an ad up every day on Craigslist, etc. Even if the landlord is supposed to do it, that ensures that you get info out frequently and increases the chances that someone will see/rent it sooner.