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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    2

    Default Landlord Won't Return Deposit or Look for a New Tenant After Breach of Lease

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: District of Columbia.

    Hello,

    My lease is September 1 2013-August 31 2014. My unit is a condo that the owner leases through a property management company. The actual owner lives in another country and I have no way of contacting them directly. On April 21, I notified my landlord's property manager in writing that I would need to move out early by July 1 (72 days later). PM said this was not a problem and would contact the owner and reply to me with "the details". I contacted him again on May 8, 13, 16, and 21 (all in writing)- I should have called, but I was out of town a lot. On May 22, the PM emailed me to say that a new PM had been hired. I called the new PM, and he demanded to keep my security deposit and that I pay for the entire month of July. I insisted he try to re-rent the apartment instead. He 'agreed' (not sure whether he intends to follow through on this). I sent another email (and copies of all emails by certified mail) to tell him I am available ASAP for prospective tenants to tour my unit.

    The reason I need to move is non-protected under DC law. I will be completely moved out by June 29. I will be moving very, very far away and not able to return easily.

    Does the landlord/PM have the right under DC law to keep my deposit when I gave +60 days' notice? I've read that DC landlords have no specific obligation to re-lease, but this just seems silly. It galls me that the landlord could have been (and I thought they were! I would have helped!) looking for a new tenant this entire time. Is there anything else I can or should be doing to get my deposit back/make this process go smoothly?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    16,090

    Default Re: Landlord Doesn't Want to Return Deposit or Look for New Tenant (+60 Days' Notice)

    Quote Quoting green71
    View Post
    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: District of Columbia.

    Hello,

    My lease is September 1 2013-August 31 2014. My unit is a condo that the owner leases through a property management company. The actual owner lives in another country and I have no way of contacting them directly. On April 21, I notified my landlord's property manager in writing that I would need to move out early by July 1 (72 days later). PM said this was not a problem and would contact the owner and reply to me with "the details". I contacted him again on May 8, 13, 16, and 21 (all in writing)- I should have called, but I was out of town a lot. On May 22, the PM emailed me to say that a new PM had been hired. I called the new PM, and he demanded to keep my security deposit and that I pay for the entire month of July. I insisted he try to re-rent the apartment instead. He 'agreed' (not sure whether he intends to follow through on this). I sent another email (and copies of all emails by certified mail) to tell him I am available ASAP for prospective tenants to tour my unit.

    The reason I need to move is non-protected under DC law. I will be completely moved out by June 29. I will be moving very, very far away and not able to return easily.

    Does the landlord/PM have the right under DC law to keep my deposit when I gave +60 days' notice? I've read that DC landlords have no specific obligation to re-lease, but this just seems silly. It galls me that the landlord could have been (and I thought they were! I would have helped!) looking for a new tenant this entire time. Is there anything else I can or should be doing to get my deposit back/make this process go smoothly?
    They could only keep the amount that was needed to cover rent owed.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Posts
    1,019

    Default Re: Landlord Doesn't Want to Return Deposit or Look for New Tenant (+60 Days' Notice)

    You have no evidence that the landlord ISN"T looking for tenants to take over your lease.

    You can insist all you wish but remember that you are the one who is breaking the lease here. One might argue that someone who feels they can simply break a lease with a 60 day notice might also be considered just as "silly" legally.

    Have you considered going back to the new PM and asking if you can look for a suitable replacement for yourself, keeping in mind that any applicant would still need to go through the screening process for approval to rent.

    Gail

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Landlord Doesn't Want to Return Deposit or Look for New Tenant (+60 Days' Notice)

    Quote Quoting gail in georgia
    View Post
    You have no evidence that the landlord ISN"T looking for tenants to take over your lease.

    You can insist all you wish but remember that you are the one who is breaking the lease here. One might argue that someone who feels they can simply break a lease with a 60 day notice might also be considered just as "silly" legally.

    Have you considered going back to the new PM and asking if you can look for a suitable replacement for yourself, keeping in mind that any applicant would still need to go through the screening process for approval to rent.

    Gail
    When I spoke to the new PM on May 21, he told me he had not done anything regarding my request, including speak to the owner, in the 29 days since my first notice.

    I mean that it seems silly to simply refuse to work with me than take my (ample) notice to find a new tenant. This is frustrating because I'm trying to do the legally/morally right thing by the landlord so neither of us loses money or has to go to court. I'd have given even more notice, but 72 days was the first day I knew I had to move.

    Yes, I've offered to look for a suitable replacement, but the PM did not respond. I'll write them again.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Behind a Desk
    Posts
    98,846

    Default Re: Landlord Doesn't Want to Return Deposit or Look for New Tenant (+60 Days' Notice)

    Although I see references that suggest that a D.C. residential landlord's failure to mitigate can be considered by a court in an action to collect rent owed by a tenant, in the absence of a clause in the lease requiring mitigation upon breach, the published case law does not actually require mitigation:
    Quote Quoting Hart v. Vermont Inves. Ltd. P'ship, 667 A.2d 578, 582-83 (D.C. 1996)
    District of Columbia law provides a landlord with three options in the event of a wrongful abandonment. International Comm'n on English in the Liturgy v. Schwartz, 573 A.2d 1303, 1306 (D.C.1990). First, he may accept the abandonment and thereby terminate the lease. If the landlord does so, the obligation of the tenant to pay future rent ceases, but the tenant is still liable for any damages specified in the contract as a remedy for its breach. Truitt v. Evangel Temple, Inc., 486 A.2d 1169, 1173 (D.C.1984); Ostrow v. Smulkin, 249 A.2d 520, 521 (D.C.1969); McIntosh v. Gitomer, 120 A.2d 205, 206 (D.C.1956); see also Lennon v. United States Theatre Corp., 287 U.S.App.D.C. 202, 206, 920 F.2d 996, 1000 (1990). Second, the landlord may relet the premises and hold the tenant liable for any deficiency in the rent, without acquiescing in the abandonment. However, "[u]nder District law, ... a lease provision giving the reentering lessor a right to lost rent is construed as creating a right to damages, subject to the mitigation doctrine." Lennon, supra, 287 U.S.App.D.C. at 206, 920 F.2d at 1000 (citing Satin v. Buckley, 246 A.2d 778, 781 (D.C.1968)). The landlord's third option is to allow the premises to remain vacant and to hold the tenant for the full rent. Truitt, supra, 486 A.2d at 1172, but New Landlord did not elect to take this course in the present case.
    Note also that as it stands, you are handicapping the landlord in any effort to relet the unit, as you remain in occupancy and are paying your rent. Your stated intention to breach at some point in the future is not an actual breach, and were the landlord to find a tenant and promise a July 1 move-in date they could find on that date that you say, "I've changed my mind, I'm staying", and be unable to deliver the unit to the new tenant.

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