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Rent It Right

Tenant owes rent despite job loss

February 15, 2009|Janet Portman | Inman News

Question: A month ago my adult daughter signed a one-year lease for her own apartment. She recently lost her job. Unemployment will cover only about half the rent. The landlord said she would have to pay rent until the apartment is re-rented. What if it takes a long time and my daughter can't afford to pay? What can happen?

Answer: Your daughter will owe rent for the balance of the lease until the apartment is re-rented. In most states, landlords are legally required to use reasonable efforts to re-rent a unit when a tenant breaks a lease. The unit must be readied, advertised and shown just like any other unit in the building.

Once the unit is rented, the original tenant's obligation to pay ends. Your daughter will owe rent only for the months that the unit was vacant (some landlords will tack on advertising costs too). If the unit can't be re-rented despite reasonable efforts, the landlord will have to sue in Small Claims Court to collect the rent for the balance of the lease. There's no guarantee that a judge will award the entire sum, and there's little victory in obtaining a monetary judgment against someone who has no income.

It may make more sense for the landlord to work with your daughter by reducing the rent for a few months, in hopes that she can find employment and once again pay the original rent. Less rent coming in for a while is more attractive than a vacant unit and the prospect of a chancy lawsuit.

-- Janet Portman, Inman News

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janet@inman.com

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