Who is responsible for additional charges when lease is over, when one party moved out over a year ago (and is about to be off the lease).
March 6, 2012 2:31 PM   Subscribe

I moved out of a rented townhouse shared with my previous partner almost a year ago but I'm still on the lease. I just have to sign a paper to be removed, as he remained in the house. When the lease is up and he moves out, who is responsible for any repairs?

My former partner and I split up in May of last year and I moved out in June. I informed the rental office that I would be moving out and that he would be staying. They said he needed only to provide proof that he could afford the rent and sign a document releasing me from the lease. My ex is a good guy, but a procrastinator, and he only recently completed the paperwork. Apparently I also need to sign that document.

Here's where it gets tricky. I don't believe there was a security deposit when we moved in, but I could be wrong. The house had some wear and tear when I moved out (we lived there since 2006, with three cats who were litter box compliant but shed like the dickens). I haven't had access to the house since I moved out. My ex isn't much of a cleaner, and I'm worried about the condition of the house. I don't know what it might look like now. He's also moving back to England after the lease expires and not planning on taking much of his stuff with him. It's pretty full of stuff. I'm panicking at the thought of having to try to clean it out myself.

So, my main question is: If there are additional charges for cleaning and repairs, who would be responsible?
posted by custardfairy to Law & Government (7 answers total)
that paperwork removing you from the lease still isn't filed? the apartment people are going to come after who ever they think can/will pay. that's going to be you. you can argue that from the date you filed the papers you aren't responsible anymore, but beyond that it's just every body's word. you could get him to sign a notarized document stating your date of move out, but even then, you have to prove any damage happened after that date. this seems like an uphill battle. i'm sorry.

also, you need to explain to him that if he doesn't actually move all his shit out of the apartment he will be dumping that burden on you. hopefully he does the right thing.
posted by nadawi at 2:51 PM on March 6, 2012

Get yourself released from the lease and you are free! Legally, you are still responsible until that happens. The moral thing to do would be to get the landlord to do a walk through now and then you and ex hash out percentages.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:54 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get that paperwork signed NOW and get yourself off that lease! Once you're off you'll be in the clear, but until then? You are just as liable as ex is, and if he's out of reach in England, they'll be coming after you.
posted by easily confused at 3:50 PM on March 6, 2012

Mr. Yuck has it.

Do this NOW!

Also, you really really need to check the laws in your jurisdiction for paint and floors or carpets requirements - landlords MUST replace these on a set schedule at their expense. Has the management done ANY repairs in over 6 years??

If management was awesome about upkeep and you've got holes in walls and pet stains - that's usually on you by law. HOWEVER. "normal wear and tear" includes A LOT of sins - especially without any service or upkeep in over 6 years. Where I am, it's required landlord paint every 4 years and carpets every 8. HOW OLD WAS PAINT AND FLOORS WHEN YOU MOVED IN? WHAT WAS THE CONDITION?

If both floors and walls were already on the shabby side, you are likely overdue by law in that rental for upgrades on both counts. At that point, you should get charged only a pittance for spackling some holes, but no more. Unless your animals ruined subflooring, or similar, you're likely off the hook there, too.

- NONE of this matters once you are off the lease.

- There is always a security deposit.

- Your landlord WILL charge bf for hauling away his junk. FYI. It's usually part of the required cleaning fee, but leaving junk behind gets expensive! Get out of this before you need to worry about repairs, hauling, or cleaning.

By my estimation, you are owed back money from any security deposit, assuming no deliberate or careless damage occurred. As such, I would get myself off the lease ASAP, leave behind my share of the security deposit and thank GOD I was no longer for my ex's laziness.

Check your jurisdiction, but I'm usually spot on with these things.

Get yourself off the lease. Unless you KNOW you caused specific damage, don't worry about splitting costs on anything. Be prepared to go to war with the management company if they want a walk-thru and require expensive repairs costs they are not entitled to under the law.

But really, just walk away. This renders the rest of your question "someone else's problem." After one year of not living there, that's what it is now.

Good luck.

***Also, it is VERY possible that you were/are considered a "tenant-at-will" and that you landlord did not know they only requirement was that you write them a 30 days notice. CHECK ON THIS!

Likely you don't need to fill out any paperwork, just notify them that your tenancy is over 30 days from now in writing.

Call your local government for rent law guidance.
posted by jbenben at 4:01 PM on March 6, 2012

Not sure how you informed the rental office but that email / letter will be useful. You are technically still on the lease so you are allowed to call the agent and check if there is a security deposit and how much it was. If so, did you pay half with your ex when you moved in? Any bank transfer receipts or bond receipt to help remember?

If there was no security deposit you paid, leave it up to your ex to manage communications with the agent re cleaning and repairs, if you receive any further calls from the agent then direct them to your notice of leaving the property and ask they call ex directly. If there is cost for damage repairs then your ex will likely call you up and ask about how to handle it and from here and your willingness to pay for other damage repairs.

Also, Its pretty standard to pay for steam-cleaning etc if you vacated, you probably got out of that because ex stayed on and you can now argue that cleaning is his responsibility 100%

Assuming you did pay security deposit, your should be active in trying to maximise your return and thus communicate with the agent directly. Damages / wall marks / scratches / all damages that are NOT wear and tear I think you and ex are both part responsible for repair cost "if its legal under your old lease agreement" you probably have an rental tenancy authority to discuss all this with.

The agent usually deducts this from a deposit and the damage should be checked against a condition report of when you moved in (condition of the property) to make sure the damage occurred during your lease. If they are genuine damages that you know happened during your tenancy then you would ideally get 2-3 quotes for repairs costs before agreeing to agents, and your payment would be security deposit deductions (if that exists).

The truth is that you lived in the house on the lease (legally responsible) from 2006 until early-mid 2011. Your ex has been there from 2006 until early 2012. You should probably be responsible for around 45% of damage repair costs and he 55%, given the time frame of occupancy. Depends on the damages of course. It will be hard to argue for full repayment of your security deposit from your ex / agent (if it exists) given this fact.
posted by Under the Sea at 5:18 PM on March 6, 2012

Thanks for the answers thus far! I went over today and signed the document releasing me from the lease. Unfortunately, it was right before closing time and the woman there was new-ish, and she wasn't really sure about responsibilities.

I don't have any problem paying for any damage out of the ordinary that was done during my years there. I'm not sure what they might include in that; there aren't any huge holes in the walls that I'm aware of and when I left it was in cluttered but not gross condition overall. The carpets were in ok - a few bare spots here and there for some reason - but could use a really good cleaning. I would even venture a guess that the downstairs carpets (at least) need replacing. Two window/door screens do have enormous holes in them, one done by a wandering dog and the other by one of our cats, widening an existing hole.

I think I'm most worried about the "stuff" removal. He's obviously not taking the bed or any of the big furniture. I'm considering suggesting an "open house" with our friends and have them take away anything they want and help him/us dump the rest.
posted by custardfairy at 6:02 PM on March 6, 2012

The landlord wouldn't know (or care!) what damage was done while you lived there, and what damage was done after you moved out. All they care about is, who can they get to pay? The security deposit (usually the same amount as a month's rent) is supposed to cover a renter's damages.

There's a certain amount of cleaning that is expected when a renter moves out, as well as repainting and carpet cleaning; but there's a term "extraordinary cleaning and damages", and this is the concern here. It doesn't matter who caused those holes in the screens or before or after you lived there, they'll need replacing, and that'll come out of the deposit. Clearing out stuff people leave behind --- anything from trash to furniture --- costs money to haul out, and that'll come out of the deposit. Any appliance repair/replacements will come out of the deposit. Patching holes in the wall would come out of the deposit. And when the cleanup/repair/replacement costs are more than the deposit? That's when the landlord goes after the former residents; each person on the lease is liable for that extra cost, and it wouldn't matter if there was one person on the lease or five: the landlord will go after whichever leasees they can find. With your ex in the UK, the landlord wouldn't be able to reach him, so he'd go after anyone else on the lease --- up until yesterday, that's YOU! --- and you would be on the hook for the entire mess. But with your name OFF the lease, you should be safe, and I'll go further: run, don't walk, as far and as fast as you can from this situation: now that you're off the lease, don't go backwards and take responsibility for cleaning when Ex moves out!

(Years ago I had to rent out my condo while I was stationed overseas; after we evicted my tenant for non-payment of rent, we had to sue for that "extraordinary cleaning and damages": in my case, that meant replacing the oven they'd ripped the door off of, replacing the windowsills their kid had pried off the walls(!), replacing the hanging light in the dining room the kid had used as a swing, etc. Over $4K in repairs.....THAT'S the kind of thing a security deposit isn't nearly enough to cover.)
posted by easily confused at 2:43 AM on March 7, 2012

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