If you terminate a lease early, what is your liability?

We signed a year lease. My roommate up and left 3 months ago and I could not afford it on my own so I moved the next month. I handed in my keys and no longer have any rights to the property per the landlord. I have been paying my half of the rent, the sewer, and the full electric since. I have been told that since I do not have any rights to the place I should no longer be paying.

Asked on December 1, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A lease is a contract. And according to the terms of this contract you legally obligated yourself for 1 full year of rent. You cannot arbitrarily decide to cease your obligation. This is true whether or not you are still residing on the premises. Additionally, when you signed with your roommate, you both became "jointly and severally" liable. This means that either of you can be held responsible for the full rental amount. So if your roommate doesn't pay their half, you owe the entire amount.

That having been said, under such circumstances a landlord in under a duty to "mitigate damages". This means that they has to use reasonable efforts to re-let the premises. At such time as they do you are relieved of any further rental obligation.

Note: Even though you may owe the landlord for the entire rental amount, to the extent that you cover any amounts that your roommate failed, you can sue you roommate for reimbursement.


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