Explanation of Tenant Rights When Breaking a Lease
A leasing agreement is like any other contract. It outlines the responsibilities of each party over a specific period of time. In a rental agreement, a tenant always has the option to break the contract and leave the property if they wish. Even though the contract may be broken, this doesn't eliminate the rights a tenant has in regards to their security deposit and possessions. Although every jurisdiction is a little different, here are the general rights that tenants have.
1. The Right For a Final Inspection And Security Deposit Refund.
In most cases, the security deposit cannot be entirely forfeited if the lease is broken. Many landlord/tenant laws require the property owner or agent to treat the move-out as they would any other. Any justifiable expenses to restore the property can come out of the deposit and if there are funds remaining, they should be refunded.
2. The Right To Have Their Possessions.
Landlords may also be required to store items that have been left at move-out for a specific period of time. The costs are charged to the tenant and may be able to come out of the security deposit in certain circumstances. If they wish to enter the property, in some jurisdictions they may be allowed to do so.
3. The Right To Have a Detailed Invoice.
Many jurisdictions require landlords to produce a detailed invoice of all charges against the security deposit. Some have a specific period of time where this must be delivered. This allows the tenant to see if they could potentially get a better price and contest certain charges.
4. The Right To a Timely Refund.
In Washington State, for example, a security deposit refund is required 14 days after a confirmed move-out date. If the refund or invoice that outlines why there are no funds left is not received, a tenant may be able to sue the landlord for the return of their money. This doesn't absolve the cost of damages as landlords can also pursue a judgment, but it does make the issue more complicated. Tenants still have rights when a lease is purposely broken, as frustrating as that may be. Make sure to review your local landlord/tenant laws to make sure you follow all of the procedures required of you in this circumstance to avoid potential future litigation.
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