What can be done if a tenant breaks a lease early?

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What can be done if a tenant breaks a lease early?

My tenant gave me less than 2 weeks notice. She broke her lease with many months left on it. Without fully realizing what we were doing, we e-mailed her and told her the rent would be this much for the number of days she is staying left. But now we realize, she is responsible for the lease until it expires. Can we do anything to collect this amount? We have never told her that all she owes is the few days and since then have told her she owes on the whole lease. Finding her is no problem nor is she financially unable to pay. Does this e-mail overwrite the lease which ends at a specific date?

Asked on November 1, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It is *possible* that the email, telling her that she'd only owe for X days would override the contract, IF she actually paid that amount. Basically, your email would have constituted an offer to settle the rent due for a lesser amount if she actually paid that amount. If she didn't take it, then she rejected that offer and you can then sue her for the full amount due on the lease. Since you have subsequently told her that she owes for  the full balance of the lease term, that would--coupled with the fact that she did not reply to the original offer--probably constitute a withdrawal of that offer. That said, if she comes back and offers to pay part of the rent without contesting it, you may wish to consider what amount would it be worthwhile for  you accept so as to avoid the delay, cost, and uncertainty of trial.


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