Q: My son is moving from his apartment in North Carolina to another apartment in Virginia over 250 miles away. The apartment managers want to charge him $1,000 to break the lease. He is moving because he is being transferred to a new job in his company. The lease says nothing about distance and breaking the lease.

Does he have to pay?

A: It seems to me the landlord has the upper hand here. If the lease is silent on the issue of whether your son can break it, then the landlord gets to decide how much money he wants to let your son out.

A lease is a legal document, and when your son signed it, he became obligated to pay the rent for an entire year. Moving out will cost the landlord money. He has to advertise for a new tenant and possible will have some months when the apartment is vacant.

So I can understand why he wants to charge your son $1,000 to break the lease. The landlord is trying to mitigate his future losses. I don’t know what the monthly rent on the apartment is, but charging 2 or 3 months’ rent seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I’m sorry to say it, but the fact your son is moving 250 miles away is irrelevant — although I’m sure it matters to you. If he is moving purely because of a job transfer, then perhaps his company will foot the bill for the $1,000. Your son should check with the company’s human resources department to find out what benefits with this new job he has accepted.

July 1, 2005