Is a move out notice from a landlord a binding contact?
January 7, 2019 12:07 PM   Subscribe

In follow up to this question I'm wondering if a move out notice would be sufficient to prevent getting charged for the remainder of an apartment lease if I move out early.

As per the previous thread I agreed over email with landlord to move out early and not be responsible for the reminder of my lease. He had me contact the maintenance company to do the paperwork which I assumed would be a contract amending the lease with the terms we agreed upon. Time passed and I didn't get the paperwork after asking multiple times, so I sent a certified letter and gave him a deadline of today.

As of today I still didn't get the paperwork, so I spoke to them and extended the deadline to Wed 9am.

Maintenance person says:
I am out of the office sick today, the paperwork by the new tenant was just dropped off this weekend. As I mentioned I will let you know as soon as I review the paperwork.

I say:
The new tenants paperwork is immaterial to our agreement to move out and end the lease early, so we need signed paperwork for our move out by Jan 9th at 9am or we aren’t moving out early. Can you get that paperwork to us or not?

Maint person says:
It’s actually not immaterial, if there isn’t an approved replacement tenant, the owner will not be allowing you out of the lease.

(This is exactly what I want to avoid. It sounds like we have an agreement with the landlord over email, but the maintenance person is openly telling us that if the brother flakes out for whatever reason I will be held to the lease. I'm not applying for other apartments yet because I don't know if I will be free to move out.)

After more back and forth asking about getting signed contract, and Maint person says:
The new tenant is accepted then I advise you that your relieved of your lease as of x date. That’s how it works. You don’t sign the new tenants lease.

Should the brother get his paperwork done today and I get this move out notice before the deadline, can I trust this move out notice to mean I wouldn't get held liable for the rest of the rent? I don't want to fight this in court and I feel this is very likely to screw me over. Is an amendment to the lease signed by both parties an unreasonable demand, or is a move out letter how this sort of thing is always handled?

(The landlord wants us to deal entirely with the maintenance company for any paperwork. He is on the email with all of what is happening but he says nothing.)
posted by ridogi to Law & Government (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, I am guessing your lease states that if you move out early you are on the hook for the rent until a new tenant is found and occupies the apartment.
posted by tman99 at 12:49 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]

Our lease does state that. The agreement over email specified when we move out and how the remainder of the money due would be handled. I would want that agreement formalized in an amendment to the lease that we both sign.
posted by ridogi at 12:59 PM on January 7

It sounds like you are asking for legal advice, which can only be provided by a lawyer in your jurisdiction. However, there likely is a simple answer to your question that can be answered quickly and at a low cost to you. It also looks like you have already recieved unhelpful advice from AskMe, so I encourage you to stop relying on this forum as a substitute for the legal advice you appear to need to protect your legal and financial interests.
posted by Little Dawn at 1:05 PM on January 7 [6 favorites]

If you've already got it in writing from the email then isn't that formal enough? Anything further would seem to involve a lawyer - either to draft it on the landlord's side or to review it for him if you wanted him to sign it, and it seems unlikely the landlord would want to pay for that - he probably thinks he is doing you a favour by letting you leave early (previous thread refers to problems with the toilet?).

I'm a landlord and have been a tenant myself in the past - I would personally only give and regard an agreement over email as sufficient. Any court claim would be in a small claims / county court - ie fairly relaxed and so you could show the emails as evidence of what was agreed.
posted by JonB at 1:54 PM on January 7

I can't comment on the legal side but I think it is clear that the maintenance person does not understand the situation and is treating like an early termination. It is also possible that the maintenance office would not (should not) make the change at your request - the request may need to come from the owner directly.

As things stand now, my guess is maintenance won't do anything until either the new tenant is approved or owner gets on their case.

Assuming it is not yet 5:00 where you live, I would send one more email to both the owner and the maintenance office outlining the following
- there seems to be some miscommunication
- Owner contacted you, they requested that you terminate your lease early for their convenience (not yours)
- You indicated your willingness to do so, provided that there would be no cost to you
- Owner agreed and asked you to contact to the maintenance office to implement this
- Maintenance office seemed to be treating this like a more conventional early termination at lease's request and won't give you a release until the new tenant is approved. This is wrong in this situation since the move at owner's request and so the risk of finding a new tenant was agreed to be on them, not you.
- You understand that this is not the usual procedure and that maintenance might need to contact owner - that's fine by you confirmation by xx:xx on xx/xx/2019
- You need a certain minimum amount of time to find a new place and if you don't get confirmation that you can leave without penalty by your deadline then you will no longer be willing to move out by [original move out date]. If owner misses your deadline and but wants to negotiate a later move date, you would be happy to talk about it.
{this is important because it tells them what happens if they miss the deadline. I don't think the maintenance office will care but the owner should}

Hopefully, this will at least make it clearer what is going on and hopefully get owner motivated to help make it happen.
posted by metahawk at 3:14 PM on January 7 [8 favorites]

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