I'm Moving Out
January 19, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Sort of like a question I asked before, but not quite as whimsical. I've reached the end of the lease with the apartment my wife and I live in. It's up as of February 1st and that's perfect, because we'd like to be out by then. The problem is that they're asking for a 60 day written notice and we just gave them notice today. In the last 7 days, Mrs. Bageena's father died and while we were out of town for the funeral, someone broke into our apartment and robbed us.

Please forgive me if this question isn't quite as clearly written as it should be. I've had an emotional week. Ok, so, here we go.
My wife and I have lived in an apartment in Mesa, AZ for the last 12 months. When we moved in, we signed a year long lease with no deposit down. They put in the lease that we would need to give them a 60 day written notice. We found that out around the beginning of this month when I called in to inform them that we were planning on moving out at the end of the month. We thought, well, you know, that sucks but we'll just have to stick it out if that's what the lease said.
Then, a week ago, this happened. Gilbert is my wife Tara's father. He passed away Saturday the 10th driving from a round of golf in Globe to his home in Snowflake. Tara and I were notified shortly after it happened and we immediately drove to Snowflake to be with the family. The funeral was on Friday, and we drove home on Saturday.
On top of that, we recieved a call after the funeral (on Saturday when we were driving home, actually) from our apartments letting us know that someone had kicked in the door of our apartment and robbed us. They stole my wife's laptop, my Xbox 360 elite, about 20 games, and went through our financial stuff. All in all, I think the loss comes to about $2000 worth of stuff. The police officer explained to us that this was actually the 4th break-in within the last 7 days at our apartment building.
So there you have it. We wanted out of the apartment at the end of the month from the very beginning, but when we found out Gilbert had died, it seemed even more important that we free ourselves up a little in case we need to help with Gilbert's finances. Then, with the break-in, we very simply put no longer feel safe in our apartment. They barely fixed the lock on our door and haven't even made it a point of importance to come back around and fix the door frame, which shattered when it was kicked in. My wife can't deal with any of this stuff right now, and the person we usually turned to for advice with this sort of thing was her father. So Mefites, can you help me?

posted by Bageena to Law & Government (12 answers total)
If you no longer feel safe in your apartment, lease notwithstanding, you could always move elsewhere and eat the cost of renting two apartments until your 60 days is up.
posted by onshi at 11:50 AM on January 19, 2009

Ask your landlord if they'll let you out of the lease on 2/1 if you find an acceptable (i.e., passes whatever application process there is) tenant to replace you and to start paying rent on 2/1. If so, then start posting ads on craigslist, etc.
posted by amro at 11:52 AM on January 19, 2009

Why do you have to give notice when you have signed a lease? And if there is no damage deposit, then what are you risking by ignoring their "request" for 60 days' notice?

Start planning to move out when your lease expires.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:59 AM on January 19, 2009

Why do you have to give notice when you have signed a lease?

Many leases have a clause that they renew automatically if no notice is given at least X days (in this case 60) before lease expiration. Some leases are renewed for a year after that, some leases become monthly leases. It greatly depends.
posted by Brennus at 12:01 PM on January 19, 2009

I'd ask the landlord to extend your current lease for a month or two to allow him to find a new tenant and you to find a new place. I signed an apartment lease that began on 1 February, and my rental management company actually asked if they could add a couple months to my lease because so few people are actually looking to rent at that time; easier for them, it seems, and I had no issues with it. That's just my experience, but it might be worth asking about in your case.

Also, gah! I'm really sorry your January has sucked so much. I hope the rest of your year is nuttin but wonderful.
posted by heyho at 12:02 PM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: Let's think about this less as a contract law hypothetical and more of an actual case. Leaving without giving 60 days written notice is technically a breach of contract, for which the landlord could sue for damages. But as there's no deposit, there's no figure for liquidated damages, and the most they're likely to get is two months' rent. Subtract out attorney's fees, which are likely to be at least equal to one month's rent, and you aren't looking at a particularly lucrative way of spending your time. He might just decide it isn't worth it.

Further militating against just letting you walk is the fact that you've theoretically got a claim for negligence on the part of the landlord. Three break-ins in a week suggests the kind of danger which landlords ought to be aware of and which they ought to take steps to mitigate. As I doubt they did anything, you've got a potential counter-claim for the losses you suffered as a result of the theft. It may not be a rock-solid claim, but it should be enough to give your landlord pause.

All of that said, IANAL, IANYL, and if your landlord decides to make a case out of it you should definitely talk to a lawyer. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if he just lets you walk away from it.
posted by valkyryn at 12:47 PM on January 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, your recent negative circumstances don't really have any bearing on your status with respect to the lease. You're still bound to do whatever you would have needed to do if none of this had ever happened.

I think you should try negotiating with the landlord to come to some agreement that both sides can live with. If the terms were not made clear from the beginning (in the past when I've signed a lease, they usually explained each clause point by point), you could try to use that as a point in your favor.

I suppose there could be some leeway if somehow the landlord was being negligent in preventing the crime, like they didn't have proper locks on your door in the first place or something like that. But it doesn't sound like that was the case, and even if so, you'd probably have to get a lawyer involved and so on, and it might not be worth it over just an extra month's rent.

As far as just walking away without the landlord's cooperation: that depends if you can afford some kind of black mark in these rental history databases. For example, if you're moving into a house that you plan to live in for the rest of your life, maybe you don't care.
posted by dixie flatline at 12:51 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, when you take into consideration your and your wife's emotional state with respect to all you've been through recently, I think it would behoove you to get out of this situation as "cleanly" as possible; i.e., without some threat of possible future negative consequences hanging over you. You don't need the additional stress that would bring. So if I couldn't work something out with the landlord, I'd probably just suck it up and pay the extra month, and consider it both a lesson learned and an investment in fending off another source of stress in an already difficult time.
posted by dixie flatline at 1:27 PM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: See if there's anything in Landlord/Tenant law about violations of safety and the ending of the lease. I know some states have provisions like with what happened with the break in that would allow someone to then leave the apartment and contract with minimal headache. It does vary by state, so you'll want to call the AZ Attorney General.

Also, since they've rifled through your financials -- call the credit agencies and have a flag put on your credit for any suspicious activities. It seems extreme now, but they have some of your personal financial information, and they didn't TAKE it for a reason. It's just another step of caution.

I'm terribly, terribly sorry this happened to you! I sincerely hope everything starts to pick up for you once you're in your new place.
posted by Gular at 1:30 PM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: Call the state Attorney General's office to find out who does tenant advising in your town. 60 days notice may not be enforceable. Landlord / Tenant regulation varies widely.

You gave notice 1/19. Decide what a fair resolution is, in your mind. Talk to the Landlord, be honest, and say "We're leaving 2/1. We'll pay you (some portion of) the Feb. rent, since we haven't given a month's notice. " If they give you a hard time say "You haven't dealt with the safety issues."

Be as fair and reasonable as you can be. I used to be a smalltime Landlord. If you are fair, reasonable and polite, you'll likely be fine. The worst-case scenario is still not too bad, even if they choose to enforce 2 month's notice.

I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on January 19, 2009

Best answer: They barely fixed the lock on our door and haven't even made it a point of importance to come back around and fix the door frame, which shattered when it was kicked in.

What valkyryn said, plus consider contacting an attorney or Arizona Tenants Advocates to discuss whether your landlord may be breaching Arizona's warranty of habitablity requirements. If so, this may give you extra leverage to negotiate leaving without giving full 60 days' notice. (IANYL, of course).

My condolences regarding the loss of your father-in-law, and the recent theft.
posted by terranova at 3:12 PM on January 19, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you all for your words and the few MeMails I recieved with condolences. I really appreciate it. I would have marked every answer in this thread a favorite, but my computer is lagging so I'll stop with the ones I've marked. Unfortunately, the manager never called me back today, but I guess that will give me some time to research your suggestions and hopefully arm me readily with some intelligence tomorrow that can help me make the best of all this.
If you dig through my posting history (which I'm not suggesting, btw), you'll find that in previous questions where I've laid out TMI about my past, you'll see that I don't have much family, especially much GOOD family to speak of. Tara's (my wife) family is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. They accepted me right in the beginning. I proposed to Tara (an Askme two years ago helped me pick out the spot) New Year's Eve 2006 after having only dated her for about a month. Before I proposed, I called her father whom I'd never spoken with before to announce my intentions. Gilbert was a quiet, thoughtful, intelligent man who was proud of his daughters and his hispanic heritage. He always loved and respected me a lot, and I think at least some of it came from the courage I had to muster to call him and ask for his oldest daughter, arguably his favorite daughter's hand in marriage after only dating her for weeks. That conversation was hilarious, just absolutely hilarious. Anyways, since the very beginning of our being together, I immediately bonded with all of Tara's family. Going through this, trying to be strong for them while dealing with my own feelings of loss and sadness, it's good to know that I have another family that can cheer me up, even if it's just a buncha people on the internet. Thank you Mefites. Your words mean everything.
posted by Bageena at 4:36 PM on January 19, 2009

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