What can my landlord do to me if I leave without paying my rent?

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What can my landlord do to me if I leave without paying my rent?

I need to move away so I asked my landlord to break my lease. I proposed numerous solutions to get to an agreement but he didn’t accept anything. I was wondering what can he do to me if I leave without paying, knowing that I will be in another state for a while. I am not an American citizen and I will leave the US soon but I don’t want to have troubles if I come back.

Asked on April 26, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The landlord can sue for the rent you owe.  If you break the lease, you will remain liable for the rent until the apartment is re-rented to another tenant.  The landlord will need to mitigate (minimize) damages by making reasonable efforts to find another tenant to rent the apartment.  The landlord cannot let the apartment remain vacant for the balance of  the term of your lease.  If the landlord does that, the landlord's damages will be reduced accordingly.  As for what constitutes reasonable efforts by the landlord to re-rent your apartment, this is determined by what other landlords in the area are doing to attract tenants; for example, advertising in various rental publications, posting a sign that an apartment is available, etc.  Depending on the amount of time remaining until your lease expires, the landlord's reasonable efforts to re-rent the place might not result in a new tenant and you would be liable for the rent for the balance of the term. 

If the new tenant pays less than your current rent, you would be liable for the difference in rent for the balance of the term of your lease.  In the interest of mitigating damages, the landlord would need a valid reason to charge the new tenant a lower rate and for you to be liable for the disparity.  Changing rental market conditions in the area may be a valid reason.

If your lease is month-to-month, you are only required to give 30 days written notice of your intent to vacate the premises.  In that situation, you would only owe rent for that 30 day period.


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