If my spouse passed away, can I legally terminate my lease?

UPDATED: Apr 10, 2012

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If my spouse passed away, can I legally terminate my lease?

There is no provision for this in the lease. We had just signed a new lease so I have 11 months left on the lease. I can no longer afford it nor can I obviously afford to pay if I don’t live there. I am 81 and only have my SS income.

Asked on April 10, 2012 under Real Estate Law, South Carolina


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Sorry to hear about your spouse.

Unfortunately, death won't terminate the lease.  If the landlord doesn't let you out of the lease, you will remain liable for the rent for the balance of the term of the lease or until the place is re-rented.  Once the place is re-rented, your obligation to pay rent ends.  The landlord has to mitigate (minimize) damages by not allowing the place to remain vacant for the remaining eleven months of your lease.  The landlord has to make reasonable efforts to re-rent the place by finding another tenant.  If the landlord does not make reasonable efforts to find another tenant, the landlord's damages (the amount of compensation the landlord is claiming you owe) will be reduced accordingly.  Reasonable efforts on the part of the landlord to find another tenant will be determined by what other landlords in the area are doing to attract tenants; for example, posting a sign advertising the vacancy on the premises or advertising the rental in the newspaper, online or in a local rental guide, etc.

If the landlord re-rents the place, as mentioned above, your obligation to pay rent ends; however, if the new tenant is paying less rent than you were paying, you would remain liable for the difference in rent for the balance of the term of your lease.  The landlord has to have a valid reason such as market conditions for charging the new tenant less rent.  If the landlord does not have a valid reason for charging lower rent to the new tenant, the landlord has failed to mitigate damages and the landlord's damages will be reduced accordingly.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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