Can a lease be canceled after it is signed and the deposit is paid but the tenant has not taken possession of the property?

I signed a lease for an apartment and paid the deposit but have recently been offered a job out of state. I will not take possession of the property for another two weeks but the leasing company is threatening to charge a fee of 1.5 times the rent for canceling the lease.

Asked on February 24, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, contrary to that old saying that "possession is nine-tenths of the law," possession has nothing to do with the enforceability of a lease, or your obligations under it. Once you sign the lease, you are obligated or bound to it. That means that if the lease is for a fixed term (e.g. one year) you could held liable for all rent due for the entire duration of the lease. The fact that you are moving out of state does not give you any right to cancel the lease--your own actions do not allow you to get out of your contractual obligations. Therefore, unless either the lease states that you could terminate it under certain circumstances, or the landlord (or leasing company) voluntarily lets you out of the lease, you could be held responsible for all the rent. And if the leasing company chooses to let you out of the lease, they can can put conditions on it--such as that you have to pay a penalty of 1.5 times the monthly rent.


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