We occasionally get asked by our clients if a tenant is responsible for rent after they’ve been evicted or skip out mid-lease. The simple answer is “yes.” However, as with most things where the law is involved, the simple answer doesn’t really give you the full story.
Let’s say you have a tenant with a one year lease. Six months into the lease, the tenant either abandons the property or is evicted for non-payment. The lease states that the tenant is responsible for the full year, so technically you could go after this tenant for that lost rent. But, a key exception is that the courts will not allow you to collect rent from two different tenants for the same property at the same time. Since it’s likely that you’re putting a new tenant in the property when the old one leaves, this means that you can only hold the old tenant responsible for the rent during the period of vacancy. As a practical matter, this means that you would have to wait until the property is re-rented to find out how much time of vacancy the old tenant was still responsible for, then file a civil action against the tenant or submit the debt to a debt collector.
The next question that comes up is whether you can hold the tenant responsible for the entire remainder of the lease if you don’t re-rent the property. The answer from most judges would be that it depends on the reason that the property was not re-rented. If the reason is that the market is awful and you can’t find a new tenant, then a judge is likely to award you the rent for the entire term of the lease. But if the reason is that you simply didn’t make any effort to get the property re-rented, the judge will likely say that you made no effort to mitigate your loss, and therefore can’t hold the tenant responsible This may seem unfair, as a contract was in place for a set period of time and a set amount of rent, but it is how the courts will generally view the matter.
As a practical matter, we rarely have evictions or abandonments from the tenants that we screen, and we are able to re-rent properties usually in only 2-3 weeks when they do occur. Therefore, actual lost rent is minimal when a tenant splits or is evicted. But whatever it is that you’re owed, we will submit to our collection agency for collection, and they will make every effort to collect using whatever legal means are available to them.
If you’ve experienced a bad tenant skipping out or having to be evicted and are looking for professional management and tenant placement, please give us a call.