The contract stated that the landlord would steam-cleaned carpet and the apartment among other terms. In return, the tenant pays 1650$ deposit and 1650$ rent to move in.

The landlord lied repeated about the apartment was cleaned. On the day of moving in, the tenant learned that the landlord did not clean the apartment. After a week of debate, the landlord finally accepted the cleaning bills.

The contract was not fulfilled by landlord? By a week in, the tenant has fed up with the lies and exhausted and terminated the lease because the landlord has breached the contract by not providing a cleaned apartment as promised.

A twist, the deposit and first month rent never arrived in the mail to the landlord. The tenant had to pay first month rent later. And decided not to pay the deposit because the tenant already declared a breach of contract and terminated the lease.

The tenant continued to stay and informed the landlord they would move out by the end of the month since they already paid for the month. They did not know they could move out ASAP and demanded the landlord to refund the rest of the month back.

The landlord now demands the tenant to move out and pay 1600$. Or he would file Unlawful detainer.

Who's at fault? What should the tenant do?

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It appears from the description of facts that the landlord was obligated to clean the apartment, did not do so before the move-in, then presumably the tenant got the cleaning done and submitted the bill to the landlord, who accepted the bill. That part of the contract has therefore been completed, though not in the originally planned manner: the landlord has not breached the contract (since the alternative of tenant arranging the cleaning was accepted).

Depending on which state this is in, a tenant can terminate a lease for certain reasons: most usually if the place is uninhabitable, and possibly if there is a substantial breach of the lease. There will be procedural requirements about giving written notice and so on. A tenant can not unilaterally terminate a contract because the tenant is fed up or because a landlord lied or provided the required service in a different manner. (A tenant could repudiate a contract, and face legal consequences). It appears that the tenant repudiated the lease.

That repudiation seems to have taken two forms. One is, presumably, telling the landlord "This lease is over, I'm leaving", and the other is by not performing part of the contract (paying first and security initially, and then by paying only half of the initial obligation).

What comes next depends again on the state and on the duration of the lease. If this is a yearly lease, the tenant would owe $21,450 for the duration of the lease. If this is a monthly lease, then it depends on the advance-notice conditions and whether notice was properly given. Let's say the lease requires 20 days advance notice and such notice was given more than 20 days before the end of the lease. Then the tenant owes the first month's rent (and also the security deposit, which would be refunded minus any damages): the first month has been paid. If notice wasn't given until after two weeks (less than 20 days), then the lease would terminate (lawfully) at the end of the second month, so the tenant would owe $3300.

If the tenant moved out before the end of the month and the landlord was able to re-rent the unit within that period (let's say notice was too late but he filled the apartment as of the start of the next month), then he might not be able to hold the tenant to the second month's rent (depends on state law and lease). However, if the unit were not rented, then the tenant would owe that second month's rent. In no situation can a tenant just leave a lease and demand a portion of their rent payment for the unoccupied time.

The tenant can get a lawyer, in case there is any hope of mitigated the legal damage that the tenant has apparently done to himself. In the most optimistic circumstance, a monthly tenant who gave sufficient notice could be free of their financial obligation with the $1650 that they paid for that month, and if there was no damage, that would be the end of that. The tenant would still be in breach of his obligation, in not having paid the security deposit, but landlord might not want to pursue the matter if he knows there was no damage.

  • Lots of good stuff in here. About the duty to mitigate - check the lease it might be explicit about this, but state or local laws might also have something to say. The lease might also define a lot of other stuff too. Whatever the case, it's unlikely that a cleaning bill is enough to get out of a lease. – jqning Jun 27 '17 at 23:34
  • Sounds like the laws favor landlords. They can fulfill the terms of the contract however and whenever they want? It took me a week to ask him to accept the bills. He even backtracked and served me eviction notice to get me to pay him back the cleaning bills. Why? Because he felt like it. The condition to have my deposit is to clean the place before I moved in. He only had two bullets to fulfill as a sublessor: one, clean the place before I move in; two, pass the words to the owner. – user12509 Jun 28 '17 at 6:31
  • This is like buying a car, I only give the money if the car is delivered as promised when we signed the paper. But when the car is delivered all broken and dirty, I get to choose then at the point if I still wanted to buy, even though I signed the paper I said I would! – user12509 Jun 28 '17 at 6:50

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