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Please help clarify a poorly worded Early Termination clause in lease

This is a discussion on Please help clarify a poorly worded Early Termination clause in lease within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; Hello, I recently gave my landlord written notice of my intention to terminate my lease early based on the following ...

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Old Jan 5th, 2012, 03:45 AM   #1
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Default Please help clarify a poorly worded Early Termination clause in lease

Hello,

I recently gave my landlord written notice of my intention to terminate my lease early based on the following clause from the lease:
TERMINATION
If lessee, with written notice, terminates this lease before the expiration of his lease term or without giving the requisite 30-day notice, the lessee shall forfeit his security deposit and surrender all keys to the premises. This provision does not excuse lessee from paying rent due before lessee's termination of the lease.
Now the landlord is asking me to pay two months additional rent beyond my termination date with a full return of any security deposit not required for repairs. I consider the clause to be poorly written due primarily to its reference to a previously undefined "requisite 30-day notice." As such I considered it likely that I would have to forfeit my security deposit despite having provided over 30 days notice, but I was not prepared to be asked to pay additional fees or rent beyond the termination date. Am I right in believing that this clause defines full terms for acceptable termination of the lease, or does the wording and/or law (Texas, in case that matters) regarding lease termination clauses leave me open to additional penalty, as the landlord seems to believe?

I wouldn't have made the decision to terminate the lease if this clause had clearly defined the terms she is now attempting to impose and I would have been much more cautious if there had been no termination clause present, but I can't reverse that decision now and obviously want to avoid paying more than I was expecting to. Judging from the tone of her communication, the landlord has clearly been consulting with legal counsel (a friend, I believe, not a hired attorney) so I'd like to know if I have a leg to stand on if she decides to try to take the matter to court.

Thank you for any help or guidance you can provide.
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Old Jan 5th, 2012, 04:43 AM   #2
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Default Re: Please help clarify a poorly worded Early Termination clause in lease

I wish to inform you that you have given the 30 days notice as per the termination clause of the lease agreement. Further, at the end of the notice period you may show the premises to the landlord to ascertain that there are no damages or repairs to be made on your account. You may inform the landlord that it is the duty of the landlord to make efforts to find a new tenant and mitigate the loss of rent. The landlord cannot take rent twice. However, you will have to pay the damages suffered by the landlord for the time period the premises is not given on lease to a new tenant. You may help the landlord find a new tenant and save on your losses. Once the new landlord has occupied the premises, you may request the landlord to refund the security amount balance and due to you after adjusting any claims. If the landlord does not resolve the matter after being served a written notice, you may file a lawsuit. The burden of proof will be on you to show your claim to the court. The court will consider all the facts and decide the matter.

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Old Jan 5th, 2012, 05:22 AM   #3
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Default Re: Please help clarify a poorly worded Early Termination clause in lease

Thank you AFFA. This is very helpful. I'm not sure I understand why I would still be responsible to pay damages due to lost rent after my termination until the landlord finds a replacement tenant if I have complied with the termination clause, though. Does my compliance with the termination clause simply indemnify me against penalties, such as the one the landlord is attempting to impose? I would have assumed that the contractual termination would also remove my obligation to continue paying rent, regardless of the landlords ability to relet the house.

Thanks.
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Old Jan 5th, 2012, 08:27 AM   #4
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Default Re: Please help clarify a poorly worded Early Termination clause in lease

The clause, as written, and I agree, poorly written at that -- appears to attempt to say that you will still be held for the rent if you terminate the lease before the ending date. The "or" clause referring to the 30-day notice it appears to attempt to refer to any holdover period, not cancellation at your option at any time during the lease. If you terminate early or do not give the requisite 30-day notice either at the end of the lease or during a hold over period, the landlord intends to withhold your security deposit.

As the lease is worded, it leaves room for argument but I believe any court would interpret the clause similarly as I have for that is customary. A lease with a 30-day notice escape clause for the tenant is not a valid lease -- it is a month to month rental. If you push this matter to court, odds are against the court agreeing with your take on it.

The landlord is obligated to offer the place for rent and make every reasonable effort to get a new tenant. Once the place is rented, you are relieved of any further obligation under the lease.
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Old Jan 5th, 2012, 10:49 AM   #5
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Default Re: Please help clarify a poorly worded Early Termination clause in lease

Thanks Friend. As I said in my initial post, my interpretation of the clause was that I might still be liable to surrender the security deposit, and have already readily volunteered to do so. It seems as though you are saying that the termination clause's sole purpose is to allow the landlord to claim the security deposit in damages if I terminate early, and that makes sense to me. What doesn't make sense is that a clause like this would specify forfeiture of the security deposit but also leave me open to further/different penalty in the form of two months of extra rent that the landlord is now attempting to collect. My point of concern is not the security deposit... it's the greater expense of paying for two months that I won't be occupying the property.

Basically, it seems like the landlord is attempting to impose a new early termination buy-out option that stipulates that I must pay her two additional months rent. Since the lease already has this termination clause in place, I don't feel as though I owe anything more than the security deposit. If the law states that I should continue to pay rent until a new tenant is found, then I am certainly willing to comply with that as well, but the landlord's current offer seems like an attempt to change the terms of our agreement in her favor, after the fact.

Just to clarify, I am not attempting to walk away from the lease without paying a penalty. I just want to be sure that I'm on good standing to insist that the penalty be limited to forfeiture of my security deposit as the lease seems to stipulate in this clause.
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