If my tenant broke their lease, can I keep the security deposit?

UPDATED: Sep 5, 2011

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If my tenant broke their lease, can I keep the security deposit?

My tenants signed a year lease 2 months ago to end in 2 years. They informed me last month that they are moving and will only give me 60 days notice; they will only pay for this and next month. I do have new tenants moving into the house next month, but is that a separate issue if my lease states if they break the contract I can keep the security deposit?

Asked on September 5, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Rhode Island


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unless the lease provides that the tenants can move out on 60 days notice, they have broken the lease. If they break the lease, they will be liable for the remaining rent under the lease, at least until you manage to relet the space.

You write that you have new tenants moving in: you may keep an amount of the security deposit equal to the amount of rent the old tenants will owe from the time they breached the lease by terminating it improperty to when the new tenants move in. If the rent for that time is less than the full size of the security deposit, you can't keep the whole thing (unless there are also repairs to be made, caused by damage the old tenants do)--you can only keep enough to pay for the rent you should have received.

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