Missouri rental lease question!
May 23, 2007 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Missouri rental lease question inside.

I just recently extended my lease for another year, but I need to get out of it and move. The only thing the lease says that remotely addresses this situation is:

"Upon an Event of Default of Tenant in the performance of the obligations of this Lease, Landlord may apply the Security Deposit to any liability, costs, or damages suffered by Landlord without waiving or limiting Landlord's further right to hold Tenant liable for any costs or damages otherwise due or in excess of the Security Deposit."

I realize that moving out before the lease is up will cost me my security deposit -- I'm fine with that. But what I'm afraid of is the landlord will request that I pay out the rest of the lease ($6,000+) in order to get out of it. Can they do this if it is not expressly written in the lease? There's no sort of termination clause that explicitly states what will be done if I move out early -- only the quote from above.

I'm meeting with the landlord tomorrow morning, but I'd like to have as much information on my side before going into the gauntlet.

posted by c:\awesome to Law & Government (4 answers total)
How to End a Lease

If you or your landlord want to end the lease, proper notice must be given. If you have a written lease, check it to see what you must do. If your lease is not up, you must follow the notice requirements in your lease.

If you have no lease, or the lease does not discuss notice, you must generally give at least one month's written notice before ending a month-to-month lease. (For example, if your rent is due May 1, and you want to end the agreement on May 31, your written notice must be received by the landlord on or before May 1.)

If you do not give proper notice, then you may be responsible for rent even after you move. If your landlord does not give you proper notice, you may not be required to move until one month after the proper notice is given. Remember, you must pay rent until you have moved out all of your possessions and returned your keys.
posted by ND¢ at 1:49 PM on May 23, 2007

Is this one of those DIY leases that someone printed out and typed in their pertinent information?

Holding you liable for any damages in excess of the deposit could hold up as lost rental income so you may have to pay. It's probably at the discretion of the landlord. He may stick you for the entire lease. He may just hold your deposit and not care or you may pay until it's rented again.

I broke a lease in St. Louis in 2005. It cost me my security deposit and additional months rent. I believe I was going to be charged rent on the place until it was rented again.
posted by pieoverdone at 1:52 PM on May 23, 2007

I am a former St. Louis landlord. I always did a 6-month lease up front, and then a month-to-month lease after that. That way, all a tenant had to do was give me 30 days notice after the 6 months had passed.

I think that in your situation, you can expect to loose your security deposit and probably a month's rent. I think that anything more than that would be somewhat antagonistic on the part of the landlord. Summer is the busy moving season, and he/she will probably be able to rent the place quickly if it is in decent shape and in a safe location.

What would help: Offering to help find a new tenant! A little "House for rent" ad in the Post can cost more than $300 (they're considered commercial advertising)- those expenses add up quickly. If you can post flyers, or advertise on Craiglist on your landlord's behalf, that would win you some favor. In the end, your landlord wants to cover the mortgage and hopefully come out a little ahead. The costs of finding a new tenant and screening that tenant cut into that goal big time. Anything you can do to help would be good.
posted by Ostara at 9:55 PM on May 23, 2007

I just recently extended my lease for another year, but I need to get out of it and move.

Ouch. I hope you're on good terms with your landlord.

There really is no good way to get out of a lease. The whole point of a lease is to eliminate risk for both parties by locking in a period of tenancy at a given price.

But what I'm afraid of is the landlord will request that I pay out the rest of the lease ($6,000+) in order to get out of it. Can they do this if it is not expressly written in the lease?

In general, state law supersedes whatever is written on a lease. The parties can agree in advance to certain terms but when push comes to shove it's the law that matters. In the US, states generally lean well in favor of landlords, and it's only in certain big cities where there's home rule and specific ordinances that the balance tilts toward tenants.

Basically, the landlord probably would be wholly within his rights to stick you with the future months' rent for any month in which the unit is empty. His responsibility is basically limited to minimal good-faith efforts to rent the unit, e.g. classified ads.

For your part, you probably want to maximize the ability of the landlord to immediately re-rent the unit. That may mean hitting your social network like crazy to find someone who wants your place. You might even explore "desperation" solutions like subletting the place for less than it's worth (if the law allows, and if your landlord approves the sublessee), to make back as much of the rent as possible.

Landlord-Tenant Law in Missouri says, on p. 5,

If a tenant needs to move before the lease terminates, the lease may be canceled if the landlord approves. The tenant and landlord must sign a statement that the lease has been canceled by mutual agreement.

Remember, you need a written agreement to sublease or cancel your lease.

Landlord-Tenant Handbook (for St. Louis)
There are different types of rental agreements in Missouri. Most are “month to month” which means that they can be terminated by either the landlord or the tenant at any time with only thirty days notice. The second most common is a lease for a set period of time- usually one year. Other than for violations of the lease, neither the tenant nor landlord can get out of this type of agreement until the period of time stated in the agreement has expired.

Good luck! Whatever the outcome of your meeting, get it in writing.
posted by dhartung at 10:08 PM on May 23, 2007

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