Can a tenant be charged an early termination fee if the lease does not mention it?

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Can a tenant be charged an early termination fee if the lease does not mention it?

I was living in an apartment complex for 1 1/2 years. I moved out at the end of February. However, I gave a 60 day notice. Then, the complex found somebody for my place and the new tenant moved in 03/07. The complex send me a letter asking me for a $500 lease break fee and 6 days rent for March. Do they really have a right to ask me $500 early termination fee? The contract states that, ”If the lease is ended or you vacate the apartment before the end of your lease term, rent and additional rent for the remainder of the lease term will become immediately due and payable”. It does not say anything about a $500 fee.

Asked on March 31, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) If you have a written lease, they can only charge you amounts or types of fees listed in the lease; so if there is no mention of an early termination fee, they cannot charge you one.

2) On the hand, as you write, "if...you vacate the apartment before the end of your lease term, rent and additional rent for the remainder of the lease term will immediately become due and payable." That language means that you could be charged for all remaining months on the lease, until they re-rent the place. If they re-rented 6 days into March, then they could charge you that, so it appears you've been very fortunate; if they did not re-rent, then regardless of how much notice you provided, you could have had to pay through the end of the lease--though if the new tenant is paying less than your rent, they may be able to go after you for the difference.


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