Landlords vs. Tenants: Can You Break Your Lease Early Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Many people who were affected by the coronavirus crisis are trying to break their rental leases. Most of them are trying to get out of their lease due to their inability to afford rent, while others are doing so for health reasons.
Given that nearly 50% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, the COVID-19 pandemic – and the resulting government-mandated lockdowns and business closures – diminished the tenants’ ability to earn a living and pay rent.
But can you actually break the lease early due to the coronavirus crisis?
Breaking the Lease During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If you wish to break your lease early due to your inability to pay your landlord or for other reasons, your landlord will be required to make a good-faith effort to find a new tenant.
However, you will be responsible for the balance of the lease until – and if – the landlord successfully re-rents the apartment or house. Typically, under normal, non-pandemic circumstances, finding a new tenant would not be a difficult task.
However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the rental market is experiencing a massive drop in interest, re-renting an apartment or house within a short period of time is rather problematic. According to The Wall Street Journal, new home listings on Zillow dropped by about 27% in the first week of April 2020 compared to April 2019.
Other rental platforms have also seen a significant drop in the number of renters looking to take over leases. At the same time, the number of potential landlords – people looking to list their apartments and houses – increased exponentially.
What if Your Landlord Refuses to Break the Lease?
Sadly, many landlords are refusing to let their tenants break the lease simply because they know that they would not be able to find a new tenant and are at risk of losing their reliable revenue stream.
It is vital to communicate with your landlord and reach a consensus. You might have to forfeit your security deposit or a month or two of rent to break the lease. If your landlord refuses to compromise, you might have to take your chances and break the lease anyway.
However, in that case, your landlord may sue you for the balance of the lease. If this happens, you need a West Palm Beach landlord-tenant dispute attorney who will protect your rights and negotiate a settlement when the courts reopen.
What to Do if You Don’t Want to Break the Lease but Can’t Afford Rent?
What other options do you have if you cannot afford to pay rent but do not want to break the lease? Although you cannot just stop paying rent due to the COVID-19 crisis, you should:
- Review your lease;
- Consult with an attorney; and
- Establish a payment plan.
Some leases contain provisions for unemployment, government-ordered lockdowns, and other unanticipated incidents. Talk to our West Palm Beach landlord-tenant litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig, LLP, to examine your lease and explore your options. Call at 561-291-8298 for a consultation.