What is going on with this lease?
May 24, 2010 2:37 PM   Subscribe

Real-estate filter: Landlord tries to push us to break our August 2010 lease after sabotaging our roommate-finding efforts. Tells us we can't break our lease without forfeiting our $1700 security deposit. Now, they've put the house back on the market BEFORE anything was discussed about breaking the lease. What now?

(lots of backstory, tl;dr below)

This is in Florida. My roommate and I signed a lease at the beginning of March for a 4/2 house for $1700 a month (we currently live at another property. We had 2 roommates lined up, but they ended up not being able to sign the lease for various reasons. We've been trying to find replacement roommates ever since then, but our management company has refused to show the house for any other potential roommates (despite saying that they would) with various excuses- they've simply not shown up once, and called off a showing about 2 hours before it was supposed to occur for the second time. The third time, I was given the number of the current occupant of the house and that worked out, but they instructed me not to do that again.

Now, they are pushing us to get the other 2 roommates and encouraging us to break our lease if we cannot find them. We were supposed to put down a $1700 security deposit, of which we have $800 left to pay. They claim that they have turned away many people interested in the house, even as recently as the past week- although when I suggested we try to arrange something with those people, they claimed no one had come to them. I was told (through an email) that they are tired of arranging showings for potential roommates (which they have done TWICE, total and have not yet followed through on) and will no longer allow anyone else to see the house. They want us to find two roommates to sign a lease without ever seeing the house. They also gave us another option- that we could try to break our lease. The agent we have worked with said that they could try to find someone for us. If they do find someone, they will make us pay the rest of our security deposit, charge us for any advertising fees, and let us break the lease. If not, we will be responsible for paying the normal rent on the house AND their advertising fees. I have not yet responded to this email.

Here's the kicker, though- I got that email at around 1pm this afternoon. At 1:20, my roommate decides to try posting a final Craigslist ad- but finds that the leasing company ALREADY POSTED an ad about the house being available in August, while we still have a lease signed with them. To me, it would seem like that would be indicative of them voluntarily choosing to break our lease, because we NEVER consented to this, talked to them, or signed anything.

TL;DR questions:
1. Can they keep our $1700 security deposit even if they find someone else to sign a lease and we have not yet lived there? Can they make us pay the $800 we still owe on this?
2. Can they charge us an "advertising fee" on top of our security deposit?
3. If they are advertising the house while we still have a lease signed, does this indicate that they are breaking our lease instead of the other way around?

(If needed, we will meet with a real estate lawyer or something, but I'm leaving town for a week late tomorrow night and would REALLY like to figure out something to defend ourselves with.)
posted by kro to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Does the lease, as it stands now, give you and Roommate possession of the house, in August, in exchange for $1700/mo?
posted by craven_morhead at 2:49 PM on May 24, 2010

Yeah, if you can swing the $1700 for a month, you shouldn't have two much trouble finding two more roommates going forward.
posted by Oktober at 2:55 PM on May 24, 2010

Best answer: First thing: figure out what the law says: Renter's Rights Handbook from Florida PIRG. The PDF they provide has info on the relevant laws that apply.

It really feels like they're operating in bad faith, but they may have the right to keep the security deposit, it would depend on the agreement you have in place. But then, it also sounds like you have only paid $900 of the security deposit, so how that impacts what your agreement I'm not sure.

When you ask "what will it take to get us in there?" how do they respond? What's their path to tenanthood?

In my experience property management companies don't want to deal with multiple roommates. They'd rather deal with one person who is allowed to sublet. Four Roommates that sign means quadruple the work for them.
posted by artlung at 2:57 PM on May 24, 2010

Does your lease identify whose responsibility it is to get the other roommates? I can't tell if they told you that they would find the roommates, or if you would have to find the roommates. It seems like they took up the responsibility of finding roommates for the house.

I also can't tell if your stay at the house is contingent on either (1) actually finding 2 roommates, or (2) paying the full amount for deposit / rent.

It seems you are just having trouble coming up with the money to stay at the house, and this is more of a financial issue than finding-roommates issue.

I agree, though, that if you are not in possession of the house yet, and have gotten nothing in return for your deposit, it is odd that they are insisting on keeping your deposit even though they haven't lost anything.

Take a closer look at the lease you signed. You should find language in there that discusses when security deposits can be withheld.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:51 PM on May 24, 2010

Response by poster: We are dependant on finding 2 more roommates. We cannot possibly pay $1700 between the two of us. The leasing company has decided that we can't possibly get 2 more roommates between now and then, and are basically trying to get us to break our lease while simultaneously saying that we are going to lose $1700 and possibly still have to pay if they can't find someone else to live there. They have made it clear that they want 4 roommates on the lease.

It was our responsibility to find roommates- that was clear from the beginning- but when our first set fell through, they told us that they would do whatever they could to help...but between not showing up to appointments and canceling them, they've never shown the house to anyone.

I keep hearing that it shouldn't be that much of a problem to find new roommates but I live in a college town where people are still looking for roommates in December from August...it's pretty bad. We've done everything we could to try and pull in roommates- offered to fully furnish the house, pay for cable and internet, pay more of the rent ourselves to lower rent prices, etc...it just doesn't matter around here.

At this point, we don't want to be in this house. We have dealt with more grief from this company (I should have known when we first went to look at the house for ourselves and they called us 5 minutes before- while we were sitting in front of the house- to tell us they couldn't make it) in the past few months that I cannot IMAGINE dealing with them for another 14. I just want to get out of this with the least money lost, basically. I feel that since they're already re-advertising the house while we're still on a lease, that it should be equivalent to them breaking our lease instead of us breaking it- but can't find anyhting about the legality of that.
posted by kro at 6:19 PM on May 24, 2010

The renter's rights pdf from jabberjaw seems to say that if they want to make you pay advertising, that should be coming out of the security deposit, and they can only withhold what they spend on making up for your 'breaking' the lease. Try ringing the Florida tenant's association, or whatever it is called there.
posted by jacalata at 12:56 AM on May 25, 2010

If at any point, the landlords offer your deposit back, take it and run.

If they're dragging their feet this much about finding a new tenant, imagine how long they'll take to respond if the roof's leaking?
posted by schmod at 7:35 AM on May 25, 2010

You're still not real clear on what your lease says; that's obviously the first place you should look for a way out of this all. Especially since you've already paid $900 of your $1700 security deposit. It looks like nobody in the negotiation was real clear on what you were getting for your $900, if anything.

"They have made it clear that they want 4 roommates on the lease. It was our responsibility to find roommates- that was clear from the beginning- but when our first set fell through, they told us that they would do whatever they could to help...but between not showing up to appointments and canceling them, they've never shown the house to anyone."

In the future, whenever someone in one of these negotiations, a tenant or a landlord, makes assertions like "I'll do whatever I can to help find roommates," GET IT IN WRITING. Then, if they blow off appointments with prospective tenants, you have a piece of paper to point to, and you're way more likely to get money out of the deal.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:09 AM on May 25, 2010

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