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Anyone have experience with tenant rights?

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Puppmom

Ideal_Rock
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I need some help. We rented a townhouse for 7 years. Our lease is up on 4/1 but we moved out two weeks ago because we settled on our first house. We were stuck paying rent and utilities until 4/1 since we are still under lease...fine. Well today I stopped over to pick up mail and noticed that all of the blinds were up and lights were on. As I got closer I could see that the carpets were ripped up. I went in and the entire house is torn apart...walls primed, sub-floor out in some areas, appliances out, lights on, closet doors and blinds off.

Does our landlord have the right to do this while we''re still paying rent? I''m paying the freaking electric bill so they can get the place ready to be rented?! On top of that we were told we had to repaint because we painted over the white and they didn''t give us an opportunity to do that and surely will attempt to deduct the cost from our security deposit.

I am so angry! Do I have any recourse? I feel like I should get my rent back for this month and they should pay the utilities since they have taken possession of the place. I also feel like they should give us our entire security deposit because we were not given the opportunity to repaint, etc.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated...my google search turned up nothing.
 

neatfreak

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Feb 17, 2007
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I volunteer at a tenant''s rights organization and the answer is that it really depends on your state, what your lease says, and whether you told your landlord you were breaking your lease/had moved out, etc.

There should be state level statutes about it and possibly city level, that would be where to look if your state doesn''t have an advocacy organization.
 

cara

Ideal_Rock
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Mar 21, 2006
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Don''t know about the remedy by my first thought from court TV is document it!! Take pictures with a newspaper cover pronto to show the place is unlivable during the time you are paying rent!

If you told management you were moving out prior to the end of your lease, they are legally required to mitigate the situation by trying to rent it out to someone else pronto. You are still required to pay the rent if they can''t fill the place, but they are supposed to act proactively and not just be lazy cause they have your signature on the lease.

However, since you lived there for 7 years, it might be that they would have had to refresh the place prior to finding a new tenent anyways and so they might as well do it now. I would definitely approach them regarding some modification of the rent you owe, especially in regards to the repainting issue, but it would probably help to get state-specific advice from an actual lawyer or rental expert before entering negotiations.
 

AmberGretchen

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Ditto neatfreak - check your local tenants'' rights laws and statutes. These should be pretty easily searchable online.

I''m so sorry you''re going through this - my DH and I had a horrible landlord situation in our very first place after college, and I remember how stressful it was. I really hope you are able to get some good information and get it worked out.
 

Puppmom

Ideal_Rock
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Thanks, everyone. This information is helpful. I did not tell my landlord I was moving out early (didn''t know when my house would be ready) and didn''t break the lease. My lease ends 3/31 and my rent is paid in full until that time. I contacted them last week about repainting ourselves so they didn''t deduct the cost from our security deposit and they indicated they were particular about the color so they would drop off a gallon for me (I only had to paint one wall). It must have been when they dropped off the paint that they noticed we were gone.

I just don''t understand why I have to pay rent and utilities while they''re occupying it. It doesn''t seem like they can have it both ways - charging me rent while they get the place ready for the next tenants. I''m especially not comfortable with footing the electrical bill while they''re working on the place.

I''ll do a little more digging and call them tomorrow. Why is it that you always have issues after the close of business...I''m too impatient to wait until tomorrow to talk to them ;-)

Oh, Cara...I did take pictures. Fortunately, I had my camera in my purse.
 

palomablancabride

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I suppose the electric bill was in the landlord''s name? If it''s in your name you should call and have it cut off. You may have to pay rent still since you''re under the lease but I don''t see why you''d have to pay any utilities if you''re not using them anymore.
 

purrfectpear

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You abandoned the property. They can take possession early. That doesn''t mean you had to pay the utilities though. That was up to you to have them turned off.
 

Italiahaircolor

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Date: 3/12/2009 11:19:22 AM
Author: purrfectpear
You abandoned the property. They can take possession early. That doesn''t mean you had to pay the utilities though. That was up to you to have them turned off.
After reading your posting, this was my thought as well. You chose to leave the property...I would assume that they could do whatever now. I would however, turn off your utilities ASAP...they can''t use what they don''t have, right? That is, if you have your utlities in your name...I know my renters do.
 

AmberGretchen

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Date: 3/12/2009 11:19:22 AM
Author: purrfectpear
You abandoned the property. They can take possession early. That doesn''t mean you had to pay the utilities though. That was up to you to have them turned off.
Well, again, it depends on the state laws, but if she was still planning to paint and do other normal post-move-out activities, that wouldn''t be considered abandonment in my town/state.

In fact, the landlord would be in serious violation for even entering the unit without 24 hours'' notice, and also for not informing the tenant about what the work was to be done.

I think it would be completely unreasonable to expect that just because a tenant has moved out a little bit before their lease ends, that constitutes abandonment - my DH and I have done this with basically every rental we''ve had, to give us time to clean the place, re-paint, etc...whatever needs to be done to recover our security deposit.
 

Octavia

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Date: 3/12/2009 1:50:44 PM
Author: AmberGretchen
Date: 3/12/2009 11:19:22 AM

Author: purrfectpear

You abandoned the property. They can take possession early. That doesn''t mean you had to pay the utilities though. That was up to you to have them turned off.

Well, again, it depends on the state laws, but if she was still planning to paint and do other normal post-move-out activities, that wouldn''t be considered abandonment in my town/state.


In fact, the landlord would be in serious violation for even entering the unit without 24 hours'' notice, and also for not informing the tenant about what the work was to be done.


I think it would be completely unreasonable to expect that just because a tenant has moved out a little bit before their lease ends, that constitutes abandonment - my DH and I have done this with basically every rental we''ve had, to give us time to clean the place, re-paint, etc...whatever needs to be done to recover our security deposit.
Agreed, AG. And I think most places have a time limit before it can be considered "abandonment." Technically, you can still be in possession and use of the property even if your stuff isn''t there, so this is something you should check into. I know that my state also requires 24 hours notice before the landlord can enter a leased apartment or he is in violation of the law.
 

vespergirl

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Jan 29, 2007
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It varies from state to state, but when I had a dispute with some of my tenants in FL, and they moved out without letting me know, the judge found them at fault for not notifying me that they were evacuating the property with written notice, and she found that even though they left 2 months before the lease was up, they still had to pay rent for the two months they were gone because they did not give me written notice on breaking the lease.
 

Puppmom

Ideal_Rock
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Thanks, everyone for your insight. I''m in Pennsylvania. I talked to a friend''s ex husband who is an attorney locally. He said that in PA abandoning the property would involve not paying rent. We did give notice and pay rent...we just moved out a few weeks before our lease was up because our house was ready.

We told them last week that we were out and were going back to clean, paint etc and they were supposed to drop off paint but didn''t (at least not by Saturday when we were last there). My best guess is that they saw that the place was clean and none of our belongings were there and decided to get a head start which is fine with me...just not while I''m paying rent and electric. Technically, I could have gone back this weekend to throw a party if I felt like it


Anyway...I called our landlord today and she was a little surprised to hear from me. I could tell that she did not think we would be back and know that they were in there. After some talking about the "confusion", she agreed to give us prorated rent back and our entire security deposit since we were not given the opportunity to clean and paint. I also turned off the electric today.

I was able to find out (in case anyone else in PA comes across this situation) that the house was ours as long as we were paying rent whether we were there or not. During that time it has to be in livable condition and the tenant must receive reasonable notice (usually 24 hours) before the landlord can enter the property.

What a relief...now all we have to do is our cross our fingers and wait for the check.

DH says he told me so and that I got all worked up over nothing
 

Octavia

Ideal_Rock
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Oct 28, 2007
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Roseg, I''m glad it worked out well! I''m in PA too, so what you said sounds on par with what I know of our landlord-tenant laws. I did once have a lease where we had to let the landlord know if we were going to be gone more than 2 weeks -- I guess so they''d be aware that nobody was keeping an eye on things in case some problem developed (leaks, etc.) but that was part of our contract and not the default law.

Enjoy your new house!
 

AmberGretchen

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roseg - so glad to hear that there was a good ending here, and I''m sure you''ll be glad to have this knowledge in the future - you never know when one of your family/friends might benefit from it
 
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