Help us figure out the risks and ramifications of breaking our lease in Ann Arbor, MI.
Three months after we moved into our new apartment, we've concluded that it's a dump and that we need to leave.
We rented the place after having a friend scout it out for us, and it seemed to be the best thing available at the time. There's nothing we can legally demand the landlord fix- it's just a rather shoddy apartment in a market dominated by student rentals. Our standards aren't high, but there's certain stuff that's not just aesthetic- for example, for structural reasons the place is going to be impossible to heat during winter and the landlord is not interested in replacing the window frames or installing double-pane windows.
I've read the lease over carefully, and it appears that there are no specific provisions or punishments spelled out for breaking the lease. Nothing about early termination fees or forfeiting our deposit. All it says besides stuff like no pets, deposit policy etc. is that we have committed to pay rent for one year.
Michigan's rental law
doesn't say anything about what landlords can legally do or not do to you if you break a lease (withhold your deposit? Report you to the credit rating agencies?). The Michigan tenant's rights websites that I've found (example here
) say only that you're responsible for rent until someone is found who will rent the place, and that it's therefore in your best interest to help the landlord find someone to rent the place. We are happy to do this and due to the tight market are fairly confident we can find a new renter.
Here's the trouble: we'd been mulling this over for a while, but just happened to stumble upon a place that's nice and well-maintained and basically so much better that our current apartment. We are going to need to commit to it by the end of the week. After reading this post
about a different situation, I went ahead and got a referral from the local bar association ($30 for 30 minutes with a real estate lawyer), but he can't see us until next week. There does not appear to be a local tenant's rights organization that offers on-the-spot counseling.
We need to make a move if we're going to get this new place. This means we have to stick our necks out now and sound out our current landlord about leaving. I've like to get a sense of what our risks and responsibilities are and what they can or can't do, especially if there's nothing spelled out in the lease.
Note: the new place won't be available until Dec. 1 so we have plenty of time to find a new tenant for our place. I intend to use this as leverage with the landlord so that we can "generously" offer to pay rent for October and November.
I know none of you are my lawyer or my Michigan lawyer specializing in real estate, but I'd appreciate any thoughts based on knowledge or experience. There are some other related AskMe posts
on the subject, but nothing that directly answers our questions.