Am I responsible for an early termination fee, if it is not mentioned or outlined ina lease termination acknowledgement letter?

I personally chose to break an apartment lease 3 months early. The lease I signed, clearly states that a break lease fee of 1 month rent would be due for breaking the lease within the 9th-12th month. The property manager and I also discussed the amount of the break lease fee via email. In an e-mail to the property manager on 3/26/10, I asked again that if I vacated the apartment by 06/30, I would still be required to pay July’s rent (as the break lease fee), correct? The property manager replied, “Yes”. On 4/2/10, I received a “Lease Termination Acknowledgement Letter” from the rental property that stated I was responsible for all rental payments through 6/30/10. There was no mention in the letter of the 1 month break lease fee. Since I have paid all rent through 06/30/10, I have completed the terms of the Lease Termination Letter. On 07/15/10, the property manager asked when I was going to pay the break lease fee. Since I complied with the lease termination letter and paid all rent through 06/30, am I still responsible for the break lease fee – which I described as “July’s rent” in the e-mail to the property manager? A friend of mine, who has taken a few law courses, said “NO” since the break lease fee was not outlined in the lease termination letter. Also, the property management company did cash my June rent payment on 06/18. My friend states that by cashing my final rent payment the lease is now officially “terminated” and I don’t owe them another cent. Do I still owe the 1 month break lease, which I referred to as “July’s rent” in an e-mail to the property manager?

Asked on July 23, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

When was your lease term supposed to end? If it ended on 6/30, and you paid through 6/30, then you would no owe any "break lease" fees. However, say that the lease did not end until 8/30. You say that under the lease, if you break the lease in the 9 - 12th month, you owe a 1 month fee. In this scenario, you would owe rent through the date you occupied the premises (6/30, which would be the 10th month in my example) and also owe the 1 month break lease fee. The fee is in addition to any rent owed for the time you occupy the premises.

If the lease is clear and unambiguous on its part, there really is no ground for dispute. You owe the fee for breaking the lease early, plus rent up until you cease your tenancy. Furthermore, if the Lease Termination Acknowledgement Letter said that you were responsible for all "rental payments" through 6/30, that in no way contradicts the lease--you are responsible for those rental payments, AND you also need to pay the fee. The letter does not need to restate every term of the lease; if the lease break fee is in the lease, that's more than sufficient.

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