What are former tenant’s financial obligations after a new tenant signs a lease?

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What are former tenant’s financial obligations after a new tenant signs a lease?

We needed to relocate from NJ due to a job change and we had 14 months left on our long term lease. The new renter’s lease is for 12 months. If the new tenant does not resign a new lease, are we responsible for the last 2 months of our old lease? The landlord claims that we are, but I thought once a new tenant came in we were not responsible for owing him any more rent.

Asked on March 13, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Are these new occupants tenants or sub-tenants? If they are tenants, that is your lease was legally terminated and an entirely new lease was entered into by them, then you no longer have any legal duty to the landlord.  In other words, the new tenants are legally liable for rent payments to the landlord, not you.  If however the new occupant's lease agreement was subject to your underlying lease, then they are subtenants.  Accordingly, while they owe you a rental obligation (pursuant to their sublease), you in turn still owe a rental obligation to the landlord (pursuant to your primary lease).

Without more facts of your situation it's hard to say.  Perhaps speaking with a tenant's right organization or placing a call to an attorney that specializes in landlord-tenant matters would be for the best.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The whole picture needs to be looked at here.  By that I mean your lease as well as the new tenant's lease.  Did you sublet under your lease or did your landlord issue a new lease for the same premises?  Did the landlord let you out of your lease?  Did you get that in writing? The problem with making any changes to an existing lease is that it has to be in writing.  But you obviously can not have two leases for the same property for the same time in these circumstances.  So although "parol" or oral evidence regarding the issues stated in the lease is not necessarily allowed, if he brought you to court for the rest of the rent I think that you could absolutely show the new lease with the new tenant as proof that he let you out of your obligations.  Tell him you will see him in Court.  Good luck.


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