PDX Rental/Lease question - Lease fee with key exchange
October 4, 2021 7:16 AM   Subscribe

PDX/Oregon: A friend is being told they're obligated to pay a lease break fee, when Iiterally just signing a lease within a week, and may need to break for emergency. Less than reasonable.

A former prop manager is suggesting if no keys were exchanged, no fee is obligated and the leasee is free to go. Trying to find documentation online. This had been true as of 2019, but many laws in OR are updating.
posted by firstdaffodils to Law & Government (13 answers total)
 
Best answer: IAAL, IANYL, TINLA. I am unfamiliar with Oregon law. Your friend should probably obtain their own legal advice.

The "Lease Break Fee" is known as a liquidated damages clause, which generally means that if X happens, $Y must be paid. In some jurisdictions, a liquidated damages clause can only be used in certain circumstances, and can only be enforced if those circumstances are met. One thing in California is that if the actual damages are difficult to ascertain, setting forth a liquidated damages amount makes sense (so long as the amount of the fee is reasonable).

In order to determine whether this fee is enforceable, the lease will have to be reviewed, and the circumstances surrounding the timing of the occupation of the premises and the emergency causing the breach of the lease will have to be examined.

Good luck!
posted by China Grover at 7:36 AM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I always urge people to be v cautious about giving advice on real estate law outside their home jurisdiction. As a practical matter, if your friend hasn't already written them a check for rent/security deposit, and the "lease break fee" is a relatively small amount of money (say, less than $500), it will be difficult for the landlord to enforce, as they don't have a security deposit to help themselves to and the expense of going to court would eat up the value of the fee. There's always a bit of risk involved in such a strategy, of course.
posted by praemunire at 7:46 AM on October 4, 2021 [6 favorites]


I would try contacting a local tenants' rights org, like this one.
posted by pinochiette at 8:07 AM on October 4, 2021


What does the lease say?
posted by gregr at 9:48 AM on October 4, 2021


FWIW my leases in Oregon have regularly included unenforceable clauses, usually due to small landlords using unsuitable templates. Definitely read up on PDX tenant law and consult with Legal Aid or Community Alliance of Tenants if you have questions (although getting free legal advice may take a while).
posted by momus_window at 10:11 AM on October 4, 2021 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: We're working on it China. Thank you Prae.


Btw, China: In some jurisdictions, a liquidated damages clause can only be used in certain circumstances, and can only be enforced if those circumstances are met.

The former property manager (not for this lease) is suggesting if keys were not picked up, it suggests no ownership of dwelling. This woman is detail oriented and professional, I trust her, I just need to find a publishing. It's an obscure little bit of knowledge.

Ok, no thread sitting!
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:16 AM on October 4, 2021


Response by poster: "What does the lease say?" It seems to be a relatively generic lease from the MultCo website. I'll check again.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:46 AM on October 4, 2021


FWIW my leases in Oregon have regularly included unenforceable clauses, usually due to small landlords using unsuitable templates.

This is a countrywide, quite possibly a global, problem.
posted by praemunire at 10:54 AM on October 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: (above) Yes. And the manager attempting to enforce is already relying on slightly generic information without supporting qualifiers. Don't want to threadsit, do want to quickly solve problem. Also accepting DMs.
posted by firstdaffodils at 11:45 AM on October 4, 2021


Response by poster: If looking for legal in PDX, Harry Ainsworth is educated, straightforward, and super nice 🙂
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:12 PM on October 4, 2021


IANAL and no one should ever follow my advice, but if it were me I'd walk away and stop responding to the landlords communication. Like others have pointed out, landlords say lots of things and landlords put lots of dumb things in their leases, but when push comes to shove most landlords won't lift a finger to chase a few hundred dollars regardless of what the law or lease says. So I would just consider this another dumb landlord shakedown and skedaddle. There's basically no way in hell I would ever hand over money in this situation unless the landlord escalated it, but my experience with landlords say that they probably won't. Ghost 'em.
posted by bradbane at 6:16 PM on October 4, 2021 [1 favorite]


Uh, Multnomah County lease or, more likely, Multifamily NW?
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 12:09 AM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Update: to those in the Portland area,

If you are ever threatened with a lease break fee, when trying to cancel a lease: a fee is very* unlikely to be enforced if no keys or official possession of a property have been taken before move-in. Thank you to all who had a response or interest.

As mentioned, Harry Ainsworth and John Bowles are absolutely great.
posted by firstdaffodils at 1:33 PM on October 6, 2021


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