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What Can A New Jersey Landlord Do If A Tenant Breaks The Lease?

By Jennifer L. Alexander, Esq. July 2, 2014 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

Leases, regardless of whether they are oral or written, generally only last for certain periods of time. Some leases are monthly, while many leases are for a one- or two-year period. Landlords who rent properties typically do so with the expectation that their tenants will comply with the terms of the lease agreement and make their payments in a timely fashion. However, much to the dismay of many landlords, some tenants chose to vacate their apartment earlier than the lease termination date, and when that happens, it can be a nerve-racking experience.

Oftentimes, landlords (particularly new ones) wonder what they can do to help cut down the odds that a tenant will consider breaking his or her lease. Landlords should note that the way in which their lease agreements are drafted can help to hinder tenants from wanting to break their leases.

What Acts Constitute "Breaking a Lease?"

Normally, when individuals think of "breaking a lease," that means that a tenant has left the property prior to the expiration of the lease. For instance, if a person has a yearlong rental lease and he or she decides to leave at month eight, that individual will have broken the lease four months early.

Landlords should keep in mind that, under New Jersey law, a tenant, prior to the end of the lease, is required to give his or her landlord written notice that he or she does not wish to renew the lease. If the written notice is not given to the landlord in a timely fashion or not given at all, the lease will automatically be renewed, most likely on a month-to-month basis. Many landlords will also include provisions in their lease which require the tenant to provide 30- or 60- day notice to the landlord that they will be leaving.

What Can a Landlord Do?

As noted above, a landlord can help cut down on the possibility that a tenant will be inclined to simply walk away from a lease by including certain provisions that will clearly and definitively explain what will happen to the tenant should he or she decide to break the lease agreement.

If a tenant terminates the Lease early, the landlord may hold the tenant responsible for the remainder of the lease term or until the apartment is re-rented, whichever occurs first. Upon abandonment, the landlord is required by law to mitigate its damages by marketing the unit for rent. If the apartment is re-rented, but for less per month than under the terms of the original tenant’s lease agreement, the landlord can also seek the difference between the two amounts. Doing so will often require the landlord to sue the tenant in civil court.

If you are a landlord who would like to learn more about the legal options available to you if a tenant breaks a lease, contact the attorneys at New Jersey law firm Griffin Alexander, PC today.

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