If my landlord has been arrested, what are my options?

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If my landlord has been arrested, what are my options?

We rent from a private owner of a townhouse with an end of lease date in about 8 months. Last month our landlord was arrested for multiple accounts of pedophilia. His court date is the end of this month. Given the charges and how high the bond is, it is not looking like he will be freed anytime soon. The house is owned by his non-profit corporation of which he is the sole owner/director. We have always paid by check directly paid to him dropped in his mailbox. If he is convicted, can we

break the lease given the circumstances as we would not feel comfortable working with him as we have children ourselves. We have set aside the rent in a separate back account as leaving a check in a mailbox with no one to check it does not seem safe. So, the money is available upon his request. Also, with him possibly in jail, what are the chances of the home being foreclosed upon? Any direction you could give us would be greatly appreciated.

Asked on October 3, 2016 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, your lack of comfort at working with him, as understandable as it is, is irrelevant: you cannot break a lease (or any other contract) due to discomfort with the other party or a fear of a possible threat or risk. As long as the other side honors its obligations--in this case, as long as the landlord provides you a place to live--you are held to your obligations--in your case, the obligation to pay rent. If you fail to do so, the landlord  may evict you for nonpayment (which he can also do if you have the money available but are not actually paying it) *and* sue you for all the rent still due under the lease for the full balance of the rental term.
As for possible foreclosure: impossible to say. It depends on whether he has made any arrangements for anyone (e.g. an accountant, a lawyer, a friend, family, etc.) to pay the mortgage for him. If it is paid, the bank/lender cannot take any action. Note, however, that even if not paid, foreclosure typically takes more than 8 months, so this will likely not affect your tenancy in any way: the possibility of foreclosure, the threat of it, or even the beginning of foreclosure proceedings does not change anything, since until foreclosure is *complete*, he is still your landlord and you still owe him the rent.


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