Tenant wants to move out early, help!

Asked by Voraciousv, Arizona Tue Dec 7, 2010

I have a 3 year old rental (single family) home in Avondale, a one year lease was signed in July 2010, the tenant wants to move out January 1, 2010 (approx.) three weeks from now due to a job offer. I am a new landlord and I am a little concerned. I plan to try and find new tenants as soon as possible, can I keep collecting rent while I search for new tenants? Do I have to return the security deposit?

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Suzanne MacD…, Agent, Morristown, NJ
Wed Dec 8, 2010
Read the lease carefully, especially the part that pertains to the security deposit. Consult with an attorney if needed. You may be able to find some guidance through a local real estate investors club if you have and/or are a meber of one. Or through your local office of community affairs. I am not an attorney but I am a landlord as well as a realtor and rental agent. My advice as a landlord is this, your tenants entered into a contract for one year. As long as you have performed your side of the contract they are responsible to perform their side and pay rent until you either find a new tenant or the term ends.

My advice, again as a landlord, would be to discuss this with them, gain their cooperation in showing the home to potential tenants right now. My best guess is that you will be able to keep all or a portion of the security deposit to cover the vacancy (if any) and to repair any damage to the home. You may be able to find a new tenant in relatively short order and cover your losses in this way. Document everything and be absolutely fair to the exiting tenant as well as to yourself.
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Dan Tabit, Agent, Issaquah, WA
Tue Dec 7, 2010
As already indicated you will need to talk to a Real Estate Attorney to receive reliable advice on this. Before you make the call however, take some time to read over and become familiar with the Arizona Landlord Tenant Act. I've attached a link for your convenience. Once you are familiar with the law, you may be able to answer your own question or make better use of your time with the attorney.
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Daniel Alvar…, Agent, Weehawken, NJ
Tue Dec 7, 2010
Hi Voracious,

Ok, i'll be careful here not to give "legal advise" because that could land me in some hot water. So first let me say, "consult with an attorney", and secondly let me say, that if you have a standard lease agreement, that yes, you can keep collecting rents while you look for tenants. However, once you have new tenants, the only amount the current lessees owe you are for the months they didn't pay while your unit was unoccupied. Now lets say, worst case, it takes you 2 months to secure new tenants, then legally you would only be able to sue for two months (check with your attorney). You would have to sue in small claims or special claims court.

Seond part: Yes, you are mandated by law to return the security deposit within 30 days in New Jersey (it may be different in Arizona) or else face the possibility of being sued for twice that amount. Now, if the tenants are breaking their lease, then you're entitled to hold onto that security deposit until you are able to get new renter(s) in that unit.

I am really flirting with legal advice here. Please note: that this is not intended to be legal advice and was provided based on my experiences in New Jersey. Your state laws may vary, and what i have described may or may not apply in Arizona. Please search your state's "landlord tenant laws" for more information.

I hope that helps. Please best answer it if you thought this was helpful.

Good Luck

PS These folks should really help you find a new tenant. Often thats making the best of a bad situation. No one gets hurt and everyone gets what he or she wants.
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Jeffrey Masi…, Agent, Scottsdale, AZ
Tue Dec 7, 2010
Dear Vora:

Sorry about your situation.

No one will be able to answer this question without reading the lease contract that you had your tenant sign. A good lease contract will address all of the issues you raised.

If you begin looking for a new tenant, ask the existing tenant to allow you to show the home on short tenant. This may work out the best for the both of you.

You may wish to use a Realtor on your next rental listing and have them usa a standard lease contract with your next tenant.

Regards, Jeff

Jeff Masich, Realtor
Arizona Homes and Land
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