If I leave and break my lease early can they take my deposit and make me pay through the term of the lease?

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If I leave and break my lease early can they take my deposit and make me pay through the term of the lease?

i signed a year lease at my apartment comlex and have been here eight months. but i would like to move out and break my lease early. they told me if i move out early i will lose my deposit and have to pay my full rent for the term of the lease even if i turn in all my keys and move out. can they make me do that?

Asked on May 4, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Iowa

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you break the lease and move out early, you will be liable for the rent for the balance of the term of the lease or untll the place is re-rented.  The landlord has to mitigate (minimize) damages (the amount the landlord claims you owe).  The landlord cannot allow the place to remain vacant for the balance of the term of your lease without making reasonable efforts to find another tenant.  If the landlord fails to mitigate damages by leaving the place vacant without making reasonable efforts to find another tenant for the balance of the term of your lease, the landlord's damages will be reduced accordingly.  Reasonable efforts on the part of the landlord to find another tenant will be determined by what other landlords in the area are doing to attract tenants; for example, posting a sign on the premises advertising the vacancy, advertising the rental in the newspaper, online or in a local rental guide.

Once the place is re-rented, your obligation to pay rent ends.  However, if the new tenant is paying less rent than you were paying, you would remain liable for the difference in rent for the balance of the term of your lease.  The landlord has to have a valid reason such as market conditions for charging the new tenant lower rent.  If the landlord does not have a valid reason for charging the new tenant lower rent than you were paying, the landlord has failed to mitigate damages and the landlord's damages will be reduced accordingly.

As for your security deposit, the landlord can retain that portion of it to compensate for your breaking the lease.  Again, the landlord has to mitigate damages.  If the landlord fails to mitigate damages, the landlord's damages will be reduced accordingly.


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