Legal Question in Real Estate Law in Michigan


Hello. I have a question regarding sub-leasing. Is a landlord legally obligated to offer a means of getting out of their lease (i.e. finding an acceptable person to take their spot or ''buying out'' of their lease)? This question has come up in my workplace. We have a situation where a person (I'll refer to him as ''Billy'') has signed a lease. He has not paid his deposit and fees, but the lease was signed 11-8-00. Billy is in a situation where he is transferring to a different college and he CANNOT live in the community. The term of his lease is from 8/19/01 thru 6/21/02; he hasn't even moved in yet. Our policy is that a person cannot get out of their lease once it is signed. If he finds a sub-leasor (on an apartment he hasn't even moved into), he is still legally obligated. My question is this: Does Michigan have a law where if a person wants to be relieved of their lease obligations, they can be, provided they meet some requirement? At my former place of employment, we had two options for those with situations such as this. 1. They could sub-lease, 2. They could find an assignment (they would find a new person, pay $100 and when this person was accepted, they were relieved). I appreciate your time.

Asked on 12/05/00, 10:03 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Don Darnell Darnell & Lulgjuraj, P.C.

Re: SubLeasing

It sounds like Billy is contractually obligated in the lease. He really has two options. First is to inform the landlord that he is breaking the lease. The landlord then has the duty to "mitigate his damages." The rule in Michigan is that the landlord has to take steps to re-rent the unit. If the landlord as two or more identical units he has to give Billy's unit equal billing with prospective tenants, but not more. When, and if, a new tenant takes possession, Billy if off the hook for that portion of the term of the lease which the new tenant rents. The second option is for Billy to find a sub-tenant. Typcially, landlords must accept a sub-tenant unless they have a legal basis to reject sub-tenant, which would be rare (i.e., landlord would hardly be able to reject sub-tenant for bad credit history, as he could have in Billy's case, because Billy has the risk that landlord will get paid rent, not landlord). The problem with a subtenant is exactly that. If they don't pay the rent, or they are otherwise trouble, now they are your problem.

Too bad Billy's not in the military. The relief you are inquiring about is available to military personnel under the Soldiers and Sailer Relief Act.

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Answered on 12/05/00, 10:05 pm

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