Do I have to give my tenant their money back if they gave 1 days notice?

I am renting out a room in my house. I had a couple fill out their applications and were approved. They gave me their first month’s rent and deposit and I gave them keys. The day before they were going to move-in they called me and said they were not going to move in. Do I have to give them their rent and deposit back?

Asked on March 22, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) If they had already filled out a written lease and signed it, you could hold them responsible for the entire term of the lease--i.e. for all the rent due for the  entire length of the lease, subject only to your obligation to mitigate (or reduce) damages by re-renting as soon as possible (and once re-rented, you can't keep charging them).

2) If there was no written lease, then under the circumstances you describe, they'd probably be considered a month-to-month tenant under an oral or verbal lease; if so, then they had to provide a month's notice to terminate their tenancy. That means that they would owe you one month's rent.

3) If you have the rent you're due (e.g. one month) you also cannot keep the security deposit (unless the renter's caused damage to the room which you have repair); though you could use the deposit to pay for that month, if it was not otherwise paid to you.

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