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Virginia tenant breaking lease -- do they still owe utilities?
started a topic
over 4 years ago
Our tenants want to break their lease halfway through a yearlong lease, solely to move to a property where they can rent for 5-6 years. They are actually very happy with our house. They are expecting to be let out of the lease, but we have informed them they will be responsible for the remaining rent until a sublet tenant is found or the lease expires, if no tenant is found. We will not be able to extend a full-year lease to another tenant because the house is being put on the market next spring (we cannot list it now for a variety of personal reasons, so it literally is not an option). It will be difficult to get a tenant for a huge house for only 5-6 months, but we will go well beyond the "reasonable" requirement by Virginia law to get a replacement tenant. Our problem is that, even if we're still collecting rent, there will be an electric bill over winter, lawn care costs, and the much higher cost for vacant house insurance if no tenant is found (or in between tenants). We could sustain losses up to $3,000 if no one is willing to take over the lease. Can we legally deduct those costs from the security deposit? Can we also deduct any legal expenses we incur as a dirct result of their breaking the lease? It seems likely, but we're not certain. This is our primary residence and the first and only lease on it. We do not own other rentals and are not bound by the VRLTA. We are using a standard Virginia Realtors Association lease which only refers to early termination without penalty for active military and victims of domestic abuse. The law is on our side, but to what extent? We should not have to incur losses due to their desire to break a legal contract.
over 4 years ago
You may need a lawyer. Plus, you can't sue someone for loses that you "could sustain".
over 4 years ago
We have gotten a lawyer. The tenants will be responsible for the electric and water/sewage bills through the end of the lease, along with yard maintenance and snow removal. They will also be required to maintain the liability portion of their renter's insurance. If a new tenant moves in, those obligations end. If they don't meet those obligations, all costs for them can be deducted from the security deposit. The question will be whether they will be responsible for the extra $1,000 in vacant home insurance premiums after they move out. It will be a direct expense/loss as a result of their breach of contract, which we can sue them for if they don't agree to pay it. If we take it to a judge, they could owe that along with legal fees for both parties if they lose. But just being taken to court over a lease issue could hurt their already bad credit AND put a black mark on their rental history, making it harder for them to rent in the future. Some judges may say that costs resulting from a tenant breaking a lease is a cost of doing business, but they had no valid reason to break the lease and were warned up-front by us and their lawyer that their costs for doing so could be substantial. We also told them we would pursue full compensation for any losses allowed by law, and they still chose to break the lease. I put everything in writing so it's fully documented, so we are in a good position. We're annoyed, but the laws are favoring us in this situation.
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