What happens if I broke a lease and am now being charged an early termination fee but the unit was almost immediately re-rented?

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What happens if I broke a lease and am now being charged an early termination fee but the unit was almost immediately re-rented?

I’ve heard different things on this. I broke a lease with a national property management company. While it says in the contract that I’m liable for a 1 month lease break fee, the landlord has rented the unit and at most is out 2 weeks of rent. I have read that they cannot receive double rent, which is effectively what they’re doing. Am I in the right by not paying the fee? If so, how should I deal with it?

Asked on August 15, 2011 Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Normally, you'd be liable for the short of 1) the remaining term of the lease or 2) the period until the premises is re-rented. Therefore, normally you'd only be liable for 2 weeks  of rent, in the situation you describe. However, parties can include what's called "liquidated damages," or damages that the other party has to pay in the event of a breach, in their contract or lease. If liquidated damages are in a contract, they generally have to be paid whether they turn out to be too much or too little for the breach--in short, a party basically agrees to pay a certain amount as a penalty or damages, no matter what. If the way the "1 month lease break fee" is written in your contract makes it liquidated damages, you'd have to pay it though the premises re-rented in two weeks.  You also want to ask yourself: even if 2 weeks were the correct measure, is it worth potentially ending up in litigation--being sued or suing--over the other 2 weeks of rent?


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