Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in Washington

I was laid off and can no longer afford my rent and need to break my lease. If I don\'t pay the 2 month early termination fee, what action can be taken against me? Are there any rights or laws regarding your lease when having been laid off?

Asked on 7/30/09, 1:54 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Amir John Showrai The Pacific Law Firm, PLLC

There are no laws that say if you lose your job you are no longer responsible for your rent or that you are allowed to avoid early termination penalties.

As to what action your landlord can take against you if you leave early and refuse to pay the early termination fee, the landlord can sue you for breach of contract. Usually, the two month early termination fee is based upon the expected damage the landlord will suffer as a result of not having a tenant in the unit for a period of time. Simultaneously, your landlord has a duty to cover, meaning to try and get the place rented ASAP. If he rents it the day after you depart, then theoretically, he has no damage for your breach of the lease.

You should also know that you are responsible for more than just the two month early termination. Although I have not read your lease, you may be responsible for however many more months remain on the lease. So if you have 9 months remaining, you may be responsible for those months left that the landlord cannot rent out, or if the landlord can only rent at a lower price for the remaining 9 months, then you are liable for the monthly difference.

The last thing any renter wants is to have a judgment on their credit report that arises out of a rental situation with a prior landlord. If you were my client, I would suggest that you talk with your landlord, be honest with them and explain your situation and why you are leaving. If your landlord is a decent person and willing to work with you, try and work something out, whereby maybe you can pay them over time or work off what you owe.

If there is no way in the world you are ever going to work something out with them, then do your best to lock up something new before you leave, and expect to remain in the next place for many years, considering how difficult it may be to secure future housing thereafter.

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Answered on 8/04/09, 4:25 pm

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