Is it legal if I need to break my lease and have found tenants to take over but the owner wants to significantly increase the rent?

I have only been in my lease for 3 months and need to break it due to a new position that will require me to spend a significant amount of time out of state. I found qualified tenants to take over my lease and they are aligned on paying the same rate we do but the owner wants to increase the rent by $500 a month, a 20% increase, stating market changes. I am an agent myself and this is insanely high for the property. Is the owner legally allowed to request this amount in order for me to break the lease? This feels highly unethical when I have done everything I can to ensure no financial risk to the owner rgarding future income potential. I marketed the property, mingled with other agents, showed my rental and coordinated contact with the

manager of the property. I have also agreed to pay a lease break fee of $900, which I also see as very high. I am trying to understand if I have any legal grounds to exit.

Asked on January 11, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

1) You can only legally break your lease if:
a) There is a lease provision allowing you to do so (i.e. to terminate it early) and you fully comply with its provisions.
b) The landlord misrepresented something important or material to get you to sign the lease (committed fraud), which can let you void, or undo, the lease.
c) The landlord breaches or vioalates some material or important term of the lease, which breach would allow you to treat the lease as terminated.
Otherwise, no matter how much notice you provide or how painless you try to make it for them, they do not need to let you out of the lease.
2) If you do break the lease anyway, the landlord can try to sue you for the money due under the lease. The landlord does have a duty to "mitigate," or reduce, his or her losses by reletting the property, and you can raise the duty to mitigate--and the landlord's failure to do so--as a defense if you sued; if you can show that the landlord failed to accept viable tenants or otherwise failed to take reasonable steps to re-rent and so reduce or eliminate his/her losses, that failure to mitigate can reduce or eliminate what he/she might get from you in a lawsuit.
3) If there was someone willing to pay the current price but the landlord would not accept them because they would not pay a 20% premium, most judges, under most circumstances, would not consider that reasonable and would consider that a failure to mitigate.
4) But landlords do have reasonable discretion to reject a tenant or, if the facts warrant, charge a higher rent. If this person has a poor credit history, an insecure source of income, or a history of having previously been evicted, for example, the landlord could demand a higher rent to offest the greater risk that the landlord would take by renting to them.


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