When is a tenant entitled to a refund of pre-paid rent?

UPDATED: Aug 23, 2011

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When is a tenant entitled to a refund of pre-paid rent?

I am landlord and sold my house. I gave my tenant a note on the 11th to leave by the 31st. I collected his last payment of $800; he paid me month-to-month. He decided to move 1 week earlier so he did. Should I give him back $200?

Asked on August 23, 2011 California


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Techically since you gave a written notice of termination of the lease ofyour home to your former tenant stating that he needed to be out of the home by August 31, 2011, but he moved out a week earlier than the stated departure date, yet paid for the entire month, you are not responsible for returning the amount of the paid rent for time he was not in the unit.

However, returning the $200.00 amount paid for the property, but not occupied by him may be a good idea from a landlord tenant relationship for you. The leaving of the tenant probably helped you sell the home quicker and at a higher price.

The early departure allows you to get in the home sooner than anticipated to make any repairs or do any necessary clean up.

The early departure eliminated any stress for you in trying to evict an uncooperative tenant which could have impacted the home's close of escrow date.

Do not forget to timely return to the tenant all security deposits within 21 days of his vacating the property as required under California law.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If the tenant were allowed to have possession until the 31st and he or she voluntarily decided to move one week earlier, you do not need to refund the pro rata share of rent; when a tenant leaves earlier than he or she must, that does not require a refund of rent, since the tenant has to pay for the time that he or she *could* have possession of the rental premises, whether or not the tenant in fact makes use of that possession. All of that said, if the tenant decides to sue you for the money, even though you would likely win in court, it would probably be a good idea to consider returning the fuunds, so as to avoid the expense, time, distraction, etc. of a lawsuit; while it would not make economic sense for a teant to sue over that amount, he or she could at least file a lawsuit and force you to defend if so inclined.

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