Can landlord increase rent when requiring both termination fee and continued rent payment until occupancy by new tenants?

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Can landlord increase rent when requiring both termination fee and continued rent payment until occupancy by new tenants?

I have a residential lease and must break it to move to out of state. My lease requires an early termination fee of 2 months rent, advertisement fees ($300) and forefeiture of the security deposit (1 months rent), all of which I paid. Separately, the lease stipulates I must pay rent until property is re-rented. The landlord has advertised property with a rent increase of $75. Unsurprisingly, there have been no takers. Is it legal for them to list the property at such a highre rate? And if I’m still paying rent, what was the 3 months rent (fee plus security deposit for? Can I quit paying rent the last 3 months?

Asked on July 9, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you agreed to a lease which states you must pay until the property is rerented as well as paying a termination fee, forfeiting your security deposit, and paying an advertising fee, then you must pay all those things unless you are in public housing--if you are, then the laws and regulations governing public housing will preclude some of these.

The landlord can advertise at a higher rate if the rate is commercially reasonable--i.e. in line with the market. If it's not reasonable, then the landlord may be violating the covenant of good faith and fair dealing (the requirement that parties to a contract or a lease do not deliberately try to deny other parties the benefit of the contract/lease, or what those parties had agreed to), and you may have grounds to take legal action.

If you are entitled to three months free rent and haven't received it yet, then you would seem to be entitled to it now, and could in theory leave three months early without paying. Much depends on exactly what the lease says in this regard, however.

For future reference: the lease you described is the worst one I've heard of in years of practice; do not sign another lease as punative as this one.


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