What are the repercussions of breaking an apartment rental lease prior to moving in?

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What are the repercussions of breaking an apartment rental lease prior to moving in?

While at college, my 18 year old son signed an off-campus apartment rental lease that he thought was a reservation to a waiting list, as the complex was under construction at the time. He has since transferred schools and no longer needs the apartment. When he contacted the apartment leasing office to cancel his spot they informed him that he had signed a lease and that it would not be possible to break it. I also contacted the leasing office and was told basically the same thing with the addition that if we could find another rent they would switch the lease over. The lease was signed 12/20; I co-signed 01/29; and the apartment complex is still under construction as of June.

Asked on June 4, 2018 under Real Estate Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Once you sign the lease, you are obligated on it: moving in (or not) is irrelevant. Your son and also you (since you co-signed) are obligated to pay rent for the entire duration of the lease, until the earlier of: 1) the lease expires, or 2) the landlord re-rents the space. The landlord does have an obligation to make reasonable efforts to re-rent it and "mitigate" its "damages" (losses), and if the don't even try, a court (if they sue you and/or your son for the money), could limit their recovery to that for the typical period fo time it takes to re-rent (e.g. 2 or 3 months of rent from you). On the other hand, if they make reasonable efforts (e.g. list it for rent the way they always list and market their units) and no one re-rents it, you'd have to pay the rent for the full duration of the lease. The lease is a contract: once you sign it, you are held to it.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Once you sign the lease, you are obligated on it: moving in (or not) is irrelevant. Your son and also you (since you co-signed) are obligated to pay rent for the entire duration of the lease, until the earlier of: 1) the lease expires, or 2) the landlord re-rents the space. The landlord does have an obligation to make reasonable efforts to re-rent it and "mitigate" its "damages" (losses), and if the don't even try, a court (if they sue you and/or your son for the money), could limit their recovery to that for the typical period fo time it takes to re-rent (e.g. 2 or 3 months of rent from you). On the other hand, if they make reasonable efforts (e.g. list it for rent the way they always list and market their units) and no one re-rents it, you'd have to pay the rent for the full duration of the lease. The lease is a contract: once you sign it, you are held to it.


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