Breaking a lease, found somone to take over, but landlord refuses
December 28, 2005 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I have rented an apartment in Prince Georges county in Maryland and signed a standard 1 year lease. It's been about 4 months and due to health reasons, I need to move to Florida. The lease says I can transfer the lease to someone else with written permission from the management. I found someone ready to take over my lease, but when I went to the management to find out the procedure, they said they would not do it. I pointed out the clause, she said that's only if they give me written permission and they would not do it. They have vacant units and they would rent out those. The lease agreement does not allow sub-leasing, either. What can I do?
posted by naveed to Law & Government (14 answers total)
That's dumb on their part. If you move, sure they could go after you for the rest of the money, but there would be legal fees, and meanwhile your apartment would go empty, with no rent coming in.

Can you go over her head, maybe bring a doctor's note?
posted by konolia at 1:37 PM on December 28, 2005

Some info.
posted by footnote at 1:39 PM on December 28, 2005

Unfortunately, at least within what is legal, you may be stuck here. It depends on the laws in your state.

I would first search for a tenant union in your area and see what they may be able to do to help. They tend to give good advice and lead you to the right place if they're not able to help themselves.

A quick google search netted me this page, which has a Statewide Maryland Pro Bono lawyer who provides services related to: Civil cases including: public benefit, domestic issues, consumer law, public housing, landlord/tenant

I couldn't very easily find a tenant union around you, but I'm sure there is one somewhere. I could only find this page (via this page... which may be of help if you dig a little deeper than I did, but it looks like it's for a specific city. Still, the laws should be statewide so it may be of some help.
posted by twiggy at 1:40 PM on December 28, 2005

My understanding is they need to have a legitimate reason not to lease to the other person (poor rental history, for example). In general, they can't say "no" just to screw you, and they can't treat your unit different from other vacant units. That is, if memory serves me well today.

Sift through these and contact someone who knows the paticulars in MD.
posted by jaysus chris at 1:41 PM on December 28, 2005

From footnote's link:


Under state and local law, landlords are generally prohibited from refusing a tenant’s reasonable request to sublease. “Reasonableness” depends on the circumstances and is not defined in the laws. Tenants should not rely on verbal agreements regarding subleasing, since the law specifies that the tenant obtain the landlord’s written approval before subleasing. When a tenant subleases his/her rental unit, the tenant remains secondarily responsible if the sub lessee does not pay the rent or if s/he damages the property. The laws regarding subleasing may differ depending on the type of rental (traditional apartment, single family home, group house). If your lease prohibits subleasing or if your landlord refuses to consider a sublease, you should seek legal advice before “giving up” or moving out before your lease ends.
posted by twiggy at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2005

That sounds pretty unreasonable. Did she say why, or is it just a case of somebody ejoying a little "because I said so" power trip?

Try talking to other (preferably higher-up) people at the property management company. Whoever you talked to originally, she almost certainly has a boss.

If that doesn't get you anywhere, at least try to get them to put their refusal in writing. You might also try contacting the local Better Business Bureau. Also, here is the Maryland Attorney General's page on landlord/tenant issues. I'd definitely scroll down to this part and contact them, see if they can help at all.

Ultimately, though, you may end up having to break the lease.

In any event, welcome to The Wang. :)
posted by Gator at 1:42 PM on December 28, 2005

I've dealt with more reasonable management than yours in the past but even they worked to maximize their revenue. For example, in a complex I lived in long ago you could leave before the lease's end and you were responsible for the rent up until they placed someone else in that unit. They were within their rights to go after you for the full term but they didn't bother and were very pleasant about it to the cow orker I had who left 6 months in.

That said, when they were showing my apartment (where the lease was up) and his apartment they were matter-of-fact about their hope that the new prospect would take my unit. They had nothing lined up for it yet, but had a rental stream coming in for the other one. It was nothing personal against my friend, it was just that having the minimum number of non-paying units is what was financially best for them.

You should try to make taking this deal financially best for your management company. I'd suggest two tacks.

One, if the person taking over is willing to commit to a one year lease you can simply have them go straight to the management, go through the application process and then say "it has to be unit XYZ or I am not interested." Clearly they are much better off getting a new 1 year commitment from someone and letting you out of your 7 month one. Perhaps you could agree to pay up if and only if this new person doesn't stick it out those full 7 months. It doesn't really put you in much worse of a place than you are now.

Two, send them a registered letter indicating that you intend to leave for health purposes and detailing what you've done to try to mitigate the problem, including their refusal to sublease (which would have left you with secondary responsibility). Close by stating that you understand that they can pursue legal recourses against you, but that the health issues causing you to move leave you with limited financial means and your ability to pay in the short term will be very limited. Hopefully they'll get the picture that pursuing you for this will mean a cross-state battle that'll will take a long time, if ever, to recoup their money.

Off the record, as it were, you can be more hardball with them about it. Make it clear to them that if they're not interested in any of the compromises you've tried to work out with them that you're going to fight them tooth and nail for every dime. You'll be in a whole other state and not maintaining any local presence, meaning they'll have to sue you in FL which will be expensive and time consuming.
posted by phearlez at 2:32 PM on December 28, 2005

You'll be in a whole other state and not maintaining any local presence, meaning they'll have to sue you in FL which will be expensive and time consuming

Unless the lease was written by the 3 Stooges, it has a clause that says it is governed by and enforceable in the state where it is signed. So no, they don't have to go to Florida. They will go to the local judge, whom they have been in front of a half dozen times in the last year doing evictions, and because you don't show up (being in Florida) they get a summary judgement which goes directly on your credit report, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

If you cannot impress upon them the idea that allowing you to transfer the lease is in everyone's best interest and possibly the only way they can follow the law, you will have to break the lease and pay whatever penalties are involved.

Or, if you want to be sneaky, make this person an occupant, move out, be legally responsible for the remainder of the lease while the new person quietly pays the rent every month. How much do you trust this person?
posted by ilsa at 3:46 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks all for your input. Phearlez, especially, thanks for the well thought out plan of attack. One question? Wont they screw up my credit?
posted by naveed at 3:46 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: lisa, ok that answers the credit and suing in FL question. Thanks.
posted by naveed at 3:58 PM on December 28, 2005

Response by poster: Is there a way I could obtain proof that I sent them notification of intent of subletting or lease transfer, besides a registered letter? I dont have a lot of time.
posted by naveed at 5:04 PM on December 28, 2005

I dont have a lot of time.

Jeepers. Does this mean you're leaving, like, now? Oy.

Well, if time is of such an essence that regular registered mail is too slow, head over to the Post Office and send the note Express Mail (overnight), with delivery confirmation. It'll cost ya, something like fifteen bucks or so (if the calculator at the Post Office site is accurate). I can't think of any other way of proving you sent your intentions, other than possibly heading over there in person with a friend and a video camera and making a big, photogenic fuss while the tape is rolling. Go with Express Mail, or a non-governmental alternative like UPS Next Day or FedEx.
posted by Gator at 5:54 PM on December 28, 2005

you could pay a legal courier to carry the letter. process servers know how to document delivery of papers.
posted by Megafly at 6:01 PM on December 28, 2005

It seems like they're required by law to let you sublease, or let you find a new tenant. They can't just keep the place unoccupied in order to get more money out of you and someone else.

Just go down there and tell them that the law is on your side, and you'll sue if they don't follow it.

My mom had this problem after her last landlords tried to steal her deposit. Claming she owed them $600 for not moving on the hour her lease expired (she took a couple extra hours). She moved out of state, so there was nothing she could do.

The last time she came to visit me, she said she'd researched the law and that they were required to pay, and that she'd take 'em to small claims court if they didn't. The cheque was in her mailbox when she got home.
posted by delmoi at 11:04 PM on December 28, 2005

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