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<help> tenant breaks rental lease with a  email excuse  from  5 months earlier

Can a email in the beginning of the rental contract,  where we had a problem about water, I said if you can't conserve, you can leave anytime.  I meant only for that particular month and it was over  water usage (1st wtr bill in 2 mo $450).  This happen in Sept 2010, and they gave notice on january 27, 2011,  but their contract is ends in June 2011.  They use my financial problem as the issue they are leaving.  However, they actually purchased a house that closed on 1/23/2011.  Can they do this?  I could kill myself for not saying "you can leave anytime THIS month",  I messed up.  To date, they stil hide the fact they purchased a house.    Isn't that more of a reason than what i said 5 month ago and on day before that, they said they will stay and not add to their water bill.  (I hired the wrong RE Agent and without my concnt, he added water as a utility the landlord will pay for)   Hhe could be involved with the purhase of their  house; for some reason, though not my business, they purchase the house 100k over the market value.  Anyway, Can hey use this as a excuse rather that they purhase a house.  they are asking for the full deposit.

To Gorgory T., CA..  I do not understand what you mean.  Tenants broke the lease 5 month in to the one year lease and they moved out and I would not do the walk=through with them because I read it would then show I allowed them to do.  They are claiming  I am holding their deposit of of bad faith, where I wrote them a demand of payment and once they pay, I will do the walk through.  They ignored me.  What I need to know if I made a mistake on an email for them to use a excuse anytime, can that break my lease?  They want their entire SD and planing to take me to small claims for the fill amount.  If I withold any amount, they will still take me to small court. They are saying I missed my window for not doing the walk through.   Can a mistake on an email by not specifying the date override my one year contract with them.  That is their argument.  
they are responsible until the end of the lease. your email the way you describe it is not official and would not be a reason. They lost their deposit because they did not fulfill the agreement. in TN For the record I would personally put a cap on the amount of water you include in your rent. any over usage should be their responsibility then. Small claim, they can try but they will then end up paying more because your email vs purchase of a houses would not hold in front of court: it's like saying to your lender: I m backing out of my agreement because I found a better house I like better.  it s also dependent on the state you live in.
thanks to in TN  I hope you are right, in case I do go to court.  I don't think an email could break a lease.  Sorry to all who reads this thread, I am half blind and have been through several brain radiation treatments.  I am chronically sick.  Sometimes, I am not clear and my typing is horrible.   This may not be worth it since I am sick.  I may just return their deposit.  They are threatening me and I never been sued.  Included with the deposit, the want punitive damages of 2,000.00  I know Small Claims do not usually give punitive damages but I do not want to take that chance.   Yesterday,  I offerred 1600.00 of SD back, and to keep  $400 for the carpet damage and painting a couple of room walls they did (ulgy. dark  accent colors).   Contractors do not come cheap.  Anyone who knows for sure whether CA law takes email over a lease,  please let me know.  Many thank for responding.  
Hi Veronica Y, CA: Have you had an opportunity to review the California Landlord Tenant Act online?  It sounds scarier than it is! It is accessible online : do a google search for California Landlord Tenant Handbook.  You can print it out if you have enough ink in your printer! or just look at it online if you are able.  The table of contents makes it a little easier to find the section on security deposits and landlords right to withhold.  On another note, EZLandlord forms has a form specifically for "Excessive Water Consumption Warning" for the future use with your tenants and it was a good suggestion in a response from someone else in this blog, to state the maximum amount of water charges in the future.  Check your lease agreement copy - if prepared by EZLandlord forms, check the section 10. Security Deposit: Section 10.B. for default of lease information; and section G. Also check section 26 Landlord Remedies.  Also, I believe tenants must have landlord's permission to paint, again check your lease agreement, and if you have to re-paint, that is deducted from the security deposit, but you must provide receipts for the money you used (of the security deposit) to tenants. Hope this helps.  All best wishes with these issues, and with your health.  Oh, and by the way, "punitive damages" seems quite over zealous of those tenants! Check with your EZLandlord services to see if you have the additional service ($12.00/month) of consultation with an attorney.  If not, it may be worth the additional fee to sign up for this service.  We used it once so far, and it was easy to use, efficient and professional.  
I just posted a response, Wednesday, May 11, 2011, AZ and I'm sorry, I just confirmed with EZlandlord - the attorney service isn't with EZlandlord - it's with I was confused!! I'm so sorry I said that you could do this with EZLandlord - ! Please excuse me... I had a few things done with Legalzoom and signed up for the additional "chat with an attorney" - please excuse my confusion! I'm sorry.
Punitive damages can be awarded in many states. One of the biggest that people will get you for is when they tell you they have vacated the property (which they can do before their lease is up) and you not send them an "itemized deduction" of their expenses. Most states will say they will automatically get back 2x (if not more) of their security deposit.  

You can accept that they have moved out early (and you should as there are abandonment legal issues, etc.) but you should also state that they broke the lease and that is why you are also keeping the security deposit. Understand that a court would probably see that the e-mail was sent out much earlier and it wasn't an amendment to the lease - but rather a short term offer.  

Good luck!
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