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Reasonable effort to rerent when landlord is selling house?

Discussion in 'Moving In & Out, Movers' started by Emily W. M., Jan 8, 2020.

  1. Emily W. M.

    Emily W. M. Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    Maine
    I am currently in a 12-month lease in Maine that is up May 31. I went to my landlord Nov 1 and said that I was interested in buying a house and if we could switch the lease to month-to-month. She said yes- but that the current lease would end Jan 31, and then we'd do month-to-month with 60 days notice. I have this all documented over text and email. She agreed to write an addendum for the lease that we would sign. I reminded her four times about the addendum over the course of a month and she kept saying she would get to it soon. I, meanwhile, found my dream house and took the risk of putting an offer in before this addendum was written or signed. Dumb move, I know.

    Our offer was accepted. On December 1, I told her that we would be following in the plan that she outlined, and leaving Jan 31 (60 days notice). She freaked out and said that she meant 60 days from Jan 31 would be the soonest we could leave, that it was our fault for not waiting for the addendum, and that since we went over her head she was now not interested in changing the lease and she would need rent from us until May 31 (the original lease end date).

    A couple of days later we come home to find a "for sale" sign in the yard. She says that she is only interested in selling, not rerenting, and if she can sell it then we won't have to pay rent after we move. She lists it for WAY higher than it is worth- there's no way it well sell any time soon.

    I live in a state where landlords are required to make a reasonable effort to rerent after a tenant breaks a lease. It doesn't seem like she is going to do so, but if I ask her to, then no one is going to rent a place that is on the market. If she takes it off the market to wait to sell this summer, no one is going to want to rent a place for four months with no possibility of staying.

    Do I have to pay the remainder of the lease?
     
  2. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    There's no way for anyone to address this intelligently without seeing the texts and emails to which you referred.
     
  3. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    A lease can ONLY be changed if BOTH parties agree to the change and the change is done in writing.

    Your LL is correct, if a change is made to the lease, it must be by an addendum to the lease (signed and dated by BOTH parties).

    That said, money can change hearts and minds.

    It MIGHT be worth your while to ask her if she will keep your security deposit and take another month's rent to allow you to LEGALLY vacate the home by WHATEVER date you wish to leave.

    You could even offer to have the addendum crafted by a lawyer for the both of you to sign.

    Remember, you'll always catch ants and flies using honey, rather than vinegar or lemon juice.

    As far as the law is concerned, matters involving real estate must always be in writing.

    To change any aspect of you lease, requires a written, dated, and signed addendum to your lease.
     
  4. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    You might have to, you might not have to. You would certainly be foolish to pay her anything after Jan 31 unless a judge orders you to.

    The following is strategy not legal advice and you act on it at your own risk. So far you have not breached the lease and she has not failed to mitigate. That clock doesn't start running until you leave and surrender the keys and the premises.

    You'll be in breach of your written lease. If she sues your for unpaid rent, you may have a defense with your emails and texts about the agreement. Included in your defense would be her failure to mitigate by putting the property up for sale and not attempting to re-rent.

    Understand something here. If you pay her anything come February 1 you are not in breach even if you have surrendered the property and she has no obligation to mitigate if you are not in breach.

    If you don't pay her anything come February 1 she is likely to keep your security deposit. If she doesn't mitigate she has no right to it unless you've left damage behind and you can sue her if you want to though probably best to let sleeping dogs lie, as she may be satisfied to just keep your deposit and let it go at that.

    FYI, here is the mitigation statute:

    2018 Maine Revised Statutes :: TITLE 14: COURT PROCEDURE -- CIVIL :: Part 7: PARTICULAR PROCEEDINGS :: Chapter 709: ENTRY AND DETAINER :: Subchapter 1: RESIDENTIAL LANDLORDS AND TENANTS :: 14 §6010-A. Landlord's duty to mitigate
     
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  5. Emily W. M.

    Emily W. M. Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Here is the text where she agrees to the Jan 31 end date. I've also included texts showing the four times we asked for the addendum.
    IMG_6696.jpg IMG_6701.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

  6. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Unfortunately, there is no "agreement" in those texts, they are just proposals and discussions regarding a possible agreement.

    However, I think, potentially, lack of mitigation may be your best defense if you leave Jan 31 and pay no more.
     
  7. Emily W. M.

    Emily W. M. Law Topic Starter New Member

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    In theory if she posts the place as available for rent, but keeps it up for sale, would that be mitigation? No one would rent a place that is for sale (either as month-to-month or with a move-out clause). How would a judge view that?
     
  8. Emily W. M.

    Emily W. M. Law Topic Starter New Member

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    So I did already offer this, and she said that she has no interest in changing the lease and needs rent until the end of the term. Is it worth mentioning that she has the duty to mitigate? She seems to think that if she doesn't do anything, she gets rent regardless.
     
  9. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Why not? The rental/lease agreement (generally) would remain in place.
    No telling.
     
  10. Emily W. M.

    Emily W. M. Law Topic Starter New Member

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    It's a house that would be presumably bought by someone who wants to live in it.
     
  11. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    I agree, so we can circle back to your original question:

    Nothing in your posts suggests otherwise.

    No one here can comment intelligently about how some unknown judge in Random County, Maine is likely to react to your argument that listing the property for sale effectively moots the mitigation effort. No one is simply going accept your argument that "no one would rent a place that is for sale." You'll have to offer some evidence to that effect.

    Well...it costs you nothing to "mention" something, and we have no ability to predict whether you mentioning the duty to mitigate will resonate with your landlord.

    At this point, you seem to have little choice but to breach either your current lease or your contract to buy the house. Either will have financial consequences, so you need to think about which set of consequences is more palatable. In doing so, you probably should not take mitigation into account and assume you'll be on the hook for all of the rent through the end of the lease term.
     
  12. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    It doesn't matter. If I have a one year lease and in month 2 the owner sells the house, I still have a one year lease.
     
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  13. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Well...sure, but only a moron would give a one year lease (or anything other than a month-to-month lease) for a house that is listed for sale and "would be presumably bought by someone who wants to live in it."

    Of course, the OP's presumption might be wrong. The current landlord could market the house as rental property, but the OP obviously knows better than we do about that.

    The biggest problem for the OP is that the property is already listed for sale and the lease hasn't yet been breached. Thus, any decision to breach comes with full knowledge that the property is for sale, and I doubt any judge anywhere would rule that the landlord should take the house off the market so that mitigation efforts would be more effective.
     
  14. Emily W. M.

    Emily W. M. Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The landlord only just listed it for sale, knowing that we were moving out earlier than the lease end date. She had originally planned to sell it after our lease ended. In effect, her trying to sell the house is her mitigation effort. If she wasn't trying to sell, it would have been rented by now and this would all be taken care of.
     
  15. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    She need not adjust the terms of your lease because it favors you.

    Likewise, you need not adjust the terms of the lease if it favors her.

    You have no duty to inform your landlord about any consequences she might encounter because she doesn't adhere to the law.

    Insofar as I can ascertain, neither of you have breached the lease YET.

    It matters NOT to the law what she believes.

    She will be judged on her deeds, not her thoughts.

    Interestingly enough, the same applies to you.


    Have you tried NEGOTIATING with the LL about vacating the premises early?


    You might be able to BUY yourself out of the lease by giving her a sum of money on the date you vacate the unit.


    At the end of the day, neither party to the lease is legally mandated to agree to changing the lease during the term the agreement is active.



    Even if the LL sold the house tomorrow, the new owner is obligated by law to honor your leasehold.

    If the house is sold, the new owner is required honor the terms of your lease.

     
  16. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    Well...your situation is what it is. I don't happen to think you have a good argument, but maybe a judge will think otherwise.
     
  17. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    No.

    She has no obligation to do anything until you have breached the lease.

    Until then her "for sale" sign is meaningless and is no help to you.

    What counts is what happens when the mitigation clock starts running on Feb 1 after you have left without paying her any more money.
     

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