Breaking a rental agreement

When an elderly person is put into assisted living, are they forgiven their lease agreement? Pennsylvania

Asked on May 29, 2009 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Some states allow for a tenant to break their lease due to health conditions but I could find no such provision in PA law.

But there are some things that you can do if you need to break your lease.  First off, read your lease; there may be a section that discusses your obligations when breaking the lease. In most cases, the landlord will require you to pay the remaining amount due on your lease as if you are still living there.  In PA your landlord is required to take reasonable steps towards re-renting the space in a timely fashion; this is called "mitigating damages." Once the property is re-rented, you are off the hook. If the issue has to go to court, the judge could rule that the landlord didn't take the proper steps to rent the apartment in a reasonable amount of time and cap the amount owed to a couple of months.  However, you must remember that a lease is a contract, and your landlord has every right to enforce the terms of that contract.

You could also draw up a written letter to your landlord explaining your need to break your lease. Here you have a compelling reason, the tenant is going into assisted living.  This reason may convince the landlord to be more lenient about the terms of your lease.  Sign and date the letter in front of a notary and get a copy for your own records.  Then go into your landlord's office so that you can speak to him verbally regarding your need to break your lease.  Explain the reasons why and give the landlord the official handwritten notice. 

This may or may not work.  If it doesn't the landlord will probably tell you that you are going to have to pay according to the terms of the lease and could take you to court for the remaining balance if you refuse.  But then again he may just help you out.

Finally, I'm not admitted to practice in PA, so maybe there is something about all this that I may have missed.  You should consult with an attorney in the area.

Good luck.


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