What can I do in my landlord breached a move-out agreement?

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What can I do in my landlord breached a move-out agreement?

I had a dispute over a supposed noise disturbance with my landlord. I made an appointment directly with the rental company to have a meeting about the situation, and we agreed together that in exchange for my vacating in 3 days, they would: 1) give me my deposit back, and 2) not evict me and leave me with a clean rental record. It was the first day of the month, so I didn’t pay my rent (I always paid every month on time) and I was gone in 3 days, and left the place spotless. They served me an eviction notice, filed a police report, charged me 6 days rent, and didn’t give me my deposit back.

Asked on June 15, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

An agreement, like the  one you describe, is enforceable. The question is, did the landlord breach it--or  did you? You state that  you didn't pay any rent. At a minimum, you probably should have paid the pro rate share of the rent for the days you actually occupied, unless the agreement said you did not have to, so it would appear that you did breach by not paying at least some rent.

Moreover, it may well be that you should have paid the full month's rent--there's nothing illegal about that as a term of such an agreement, and if that's what the agreement said, you'd have to pay it. And even more: it may well be that the problem was that you and the landlord each believed the agreement meant something different--you may have believed that  you didn't owe any rent that month, he may have believed you'd pay the full month's rent. (Which is not unreasonable anyway--for example, even after you move out, it will take him time to clean and re-rent it, so he can't turn around instantly re-let it to someone else.)

So...if  you feel that the landlord did breach, you may sue him to recover you deposit and  possibly for other damages (e.g. having an eviction reported against you). But if  you're suing him, you'll have to prove your case, so you need to consider what the agreement exactly said, and also what evidence you have of  your interpretation, to any extent that it's not 100% clear. You'll also need to weigh the cost and inconvenience of suing vs. what you hope to recover.


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