Q. I rented my house for what should have been a year, but my tenants claimed to have found a house and broke the agreement after ten months. They have a $500 security deposit on file with me.
After they moved out, I inspected the house and found a broken window, roaches, a damaged window screen, and I also discovered that they had never changed the furnace filter. They are now expecting a total refund of their deposit. I don’t feel that I should pay for the damage they caused. Am I right?
A. When you enter into a lease, you are entering into a contract for the specified term in the document. If the lease is for one year, you as a landlord have an obligation to provide the housing for one year and the tenant has a duty to pay rent for one year. If the tenant fails to pay rent for the twelve months, he or she will is still responsible for the rent for the months that the apartment was vacant during the twelve month period.
In most cases, a landlord can apply the security deposit towards the lost rent caused by a tenant’s early termination of the lease.
Also, a tenant is responsible for returning the apartment to the landlord in about the same condition it was delivered to him or her, taking into account ordinary wear and tear. Most leases say that the tenant is responsible for any damaged caused to the unit during his or her occupancy.
Most leases would provide that your tenants owe you the last two months’ rent along with payment for any damage they caused to your apartment. Even if there wasn’t any damage to your unit, if the tenants left the apartment in filthy condition, that would be enough of a reason to deduct reasonable expenses from their security deposit to bring it back into the shape the apartment was in when you leased it to the tenants.
You need to read your lease agreement and determine what the terms of your lease were. You should also consult with a local attorney to determine what your losses are and whether you might need to demand additional payment from your tenants.
You may decide to send them a demand letter for additional payment or even sue them for breaching the lease. You should keep in mind that some leases provide for the reimbursement of attorneys’ fees in case you sue the tenant for a default under the lease.