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doowain

Terminated lease early - Advice Needed

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OK, so last July we put our house up for sale and started the house search.  We didn't find anything that we loved so we decided to build.  Unfortunately, our house sold in two weeks, which put us in a 6 month apartment lease (August - Jan).  We had stayed in this same apartment community 10 years ago for a year after we were married.  We have a son, who was 4 months old at the time, so we were picky with where we moved to.  We had zero complaints during our stay before so we felt comfortable with this decision.

Fast forward to September.  Weather starts to get colder and all of the sudden we start to smell cigarette smoke in our apartment (neither of us smoke).  Mainly the kitchen and laundry room.  Not terrible, but definitely noticeable.  I had the maintenance guy over for an unrelated issue and mentioned it to him.  He said to let him know if it gets worse.

A few weeks later in mid-late October, I walk in to the kitchen and hit a wall of smoke.  It centered around the stove area and again in the laundry room.  I call the management office.  It's after hours, so I put in a Maintenance Request.  Guy comes out a couple days later.  He says "we get this all the time".  That's funny, this never happened in the entire year we were here before.  He proceeds to change the air filter and use the "foam in a can" stuff to seal around any spaces in the kitchen and laundry room it could be coming from.  OK, cool.

It didn't fix it.  Not even a little.  So, we call them back out.  It takes them until late November to get back out.  This guys says the last guy missed a spot with the foam.  He fills it in and changes the air filter.  AGAIN, it didn't fix the smoke at all.

That day we find out that our closing date on our house is December 31st.  We had planned to spend all of January slowly moving stuff in and painting.  Now we just want to get the hell out of this place.  So, I sent a letter to the management office stating that we were terminating our lease early.  It stated that we would turn in the keys on January 8th and I would pay for half of January (1 week longer than we stayed), but would not be paying for the rest of January.  I thought that was fair.  She calls me the next day with an attitude and said "You owe for the remainder of your lease based on the contract you signed.  You can either pay that or the early termination fee of 1 months rent ($1100) plus $350 for every month you have left".  Uh what?  At that point I decided I wouldn't pay for a single minute past January 8th.

In our letter, we cited our rights covered in the "Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment" as our reason for terminating and for denying our responsibility for paying the remainder of January's rent.  They had 2 opportunities to fix this issue and did not.  If it would've just been my wife and I in the apartment, I'd have just dealt with it for another month, but considering our infant son, there was no way we could stay any longer once we had a viable alternative.

At the end of the day, we are talking a $700 difference in what they say we owe and what I ended up paying them.  Not a huge amount by any means.  However, their attitude and unprofessionalism when I've spoken to them has killed any chance of me caving, if only to prove a point.

So, was/am I completely wrong here?  What would you have done?  Has anyone else experienced anything like this in the past?  Do they have legal ground to come after me?  And if so, any chance I could win?  Everything I've read online says I have a case, but it is the internet afterall.

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TLDR version - Terminated lease 3 weeks early due to uncomfortable amounts of 2nd hand cigarette smoke entering apartment where our < 1 year old son sleeps.  We say we don't owe for final 3 weeks.  They say we do.  Am I wrong or are they?  Blah blah.

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Just pay it. 

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1 minute ago, Bucky86 said:

Just pay it. 

I initially considered that just to be done with it.  

However, the more I thought on it and dealt with the attitude from management concerning it, I said #### it.  They are essentially claiming zero responsibility for their substandard ventilation in their apartments.  No one should be breathing smoke from another apartment inside their own.

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I'd view it like paying real estate taxes in protest. Even if protesting, you have to pay first, bicker later. They have you buy the short ones. I'm not a lawyer, but I'd meet your lease obligation and hire a lawyer to look over the lease and any HOA, etc. documents to see if you can file a lawsuit for the money you're trying to avoid paying now based on the landlord not meeting their end of the bargain. 

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Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.  Just pay it.

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8 minutes ago, doowain said:

I initially considered that just to be done with it.  

However, the more I thought on it and dealt with the attitude from management concerning it, I said #### it.  They are essentially claiming zero responsibility for their substandard ventilation in their apartments.  No one should be breathing smoke from another apartment inside their own.

 

I'm with you Doowain, its not so much about the money and see them in small claims court.  

Do you know anyone else that have had problems with the landlord?

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This is what I see for your future:

You'll get a summons to claims court for failure to pay your contract.

You'll call and meet with the apartment's attorney's office because you are worried about going to court.

They will agree to accept 50% payment to settle out of court.

Win-Win because that's the best you can get without spending more money hiring your own attorney. 

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Quote

That day we find out that our closing date on our house is December 31st.  We had planned to spend all of January slowly moving stuff in and painting.  Now we just want to get the hell out of this place.  So, I sent a letter to the management office stating that we were terminating our lease early.  

I'm not questioning you but it does seem convenient that you are breaking your lease early to move into your house.  I think you needed to built a strong case about the smoke problem, preferably with an independent party, before you moved out.

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3 minutes ago, cstu said:
Quote

That day we find out that our closing date on our house is December 31st.  We had planned to spend all of January slowly moving stuff in and painting.  Now we just want to get the hell out of this place.  So, I sent a letter to the management office stating that we were terminating our lease early.  

I'm not questioning you but it does seem convenient that you are breaking your lease early to move into your house.  I think you needed to built a strong case about the smoke problem, preferably with an independent party, before you moved out.

I'd tell them to fix the ventilation problem so that you don't smell smoke from other apartments.  Then you might be able to parlay that into "unfit living conditions" or some such.

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3 minutes ago, cstu said:

I'm not questioning you but it does seem convenient that you are breaking your lease early to move into your house.  I think you needed to built a strong case about the smoke problem, preferably with an independent party, before you moved out.

This.

If you notify them in late November, then you either give 30 days then and get out by the end of December or you let them know on Dec. 8th and say "you haven't fixed the problem and I'm terminating effective 30 days from today". 

What I don't think you'll get away with is saying "I'm terminating because the smoke is bad for my baby but I will stay 40 days and just pay for the 40 days". 

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3 minutes ago, The Commish said:

I'd tell them to fix the ventilation problem so that you don't smell smoke from other apartments.  Then you might be able to parlay that into "unfit living conditions" or some such.

They came out on two separate occasions to fix the issue and didn't even make it incrementally better.

 

7 minutes ago, cstu said:

I'm not questioning you but it does seem convenient that you are breaking your lease early to move into your house.  I think you needed to built a strong case about the smoke problem, preferably with an independent party, before you moved out.

I get that it seems convenient.  I'd have left in November if I had somewhere else to move to.  I started moving the minute we got the key.  Up until that point we didn't have a viable alternative. 

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38 minutes ago, doowain said:

TLDR version - Terminated lease 3 weeks early due to uncomfortable amounts of 2nd hand cigarette smoke entering apartment where our < 1 year old son sleeps.  We say we don't owe for final 3 weeks.  They say we do.  Am I wrong or are they?  Blah blah.

tl:dr

My house closing came sooner then expected. Help me get out of a signed contract by any means necessary.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, E Street Brat said:

tl:dr

My house closing came sooner then expected. Help me get out of a signed contract by any means necessary.

 

 

False.  We knew from the moment they broke ground it would be December.  We just got a hard date of December 31st on that day.

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Where do you live?  What state are we talking about.

Most states that I'm aware of are heavily pro-tenant.  I would not pay for January at all.  Move out as soon as you can.  Let them try to chase you for the money.  You may have to make an appearance in small claims court.  Bring the letter you provided to them and any documentation you have about your requests to have the smoke issue resolved.  Likely worst case scenario is that the magistrate then orders you to pay the pro-rated value of the days you stayed in January.  

They will not, by law, be able to lock you out of your apartment for non-payment for the few days of January that you are going to be there.

 

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19 minutes ago, tonydead said:

This is what I see for your future:

You'll get a summons to claims court for failure to pay your contract.

You'll call and meet with the apartment's attorney's office because you are worried about going to court.

They will agree to accept 50% payment to settle out of court.

Win-Win because that's the best you can get without spending more money hiring your own attorney. 

Unless they feel very strongly that they'd win, I seriously doubt they'd want to go to court over $692.  Court costs alone will likely be half of that.

I think the more likely scenario is collections.

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4 minutes ago, Idiot Boxer said:

Where do you live?  What state are we talking about.

Most states that I'm aware of are heavily pro-tenant.  I would not pay for January at all.  Move out as soon as you can.  Let them try to chase you for the money.  You may have to make an appearance in small claims court.  Bring the letter you provided to them and any documentation you have about your requests to have the smoke issue resolved.  Likely worst case scenario is that the magistrate then orders you to pay the pro-rated value of the days you stayed in January.  

They will not, by law, be able to lock you out of your apartment for non-payment for the few days of January that you are going to be there.

 

Ohio

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Most apartment complexes have a dedicated staff person for small claims court.  You do not need an attorney and the fees are low.  Typically, they go to get people out of apartments for non-payment, not to get payments.

Around here, the magistrate rarely awards money damages to the landlord.  Usually just possession, even if they were months past due.  They usually will not require you pay the full contract, so long as you gave adequate notice of a move out date in advance.

 

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Just now, doowain said:

Ohio

Don't know much about Ohio LL-T law, but I suspect it's largely the same.  

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2 minutes ago, doowain said:

Unless they feel very strongly that they'd win, I seriously doubt they'd want to go to court over $692.  Court costs alone will likely be half of that.

I think the more likely scenario is collections.

meh, you have good credit (I'm assuming), a good job, and are a good guy. You already have your house/etc. They were awful on the smoke thing.

In short, they can do very little to you, collections or not. If you can handle the phone call annoyance and mail reminders from companies who buy the debt at pennies on the dollar, @#$% them.

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1 minute ago, doowain said:

Unless they feel very strongly that they'd win, I seriously doubt they'd want to go to court over $692.  Court costs alone will likely be half of that.

I think the more likely scenario is collections.

That's exactly why they'll settle for 50%.  They target a collective 50% over all defaults.  Collection agencies run in the 25% to 35% rate after commission at best.

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you getting a mortgage?  if yes, will the credit ding hurt your mortgage approval?  I know banks have gotten alot tougher

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12 minutes ago, Idiot Boxer said:

Where do you live?  What state are we talking about.

Most states that I'm aware of are heavily pro-tenant.  I would not pay for January at all.  Move out as soon as you can.  Let them try to chase you for the money.  You may have to make an appearance in small claims court.  Bring the letter you provided to them and any documentation you have about your requests to have the smoke issue resolved.  Likely worst case scenario is that the magistrate then orders you to pay the pro-rated value of the days you stayed in January.  

They will not, by law, be able to lock you out of your apartment for non-payment for the few days of January that you are going to be there.

 

We're in May.  This already happened.  Now they're just looking to collect on the remainder of the bill that they weren't paid.

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5 minutes ago, Parrothead said:

you getting a mortgage?  if yes, will the credit ding hurt your mortgage approval?  I know banks have gotten alot tougher

Yes.  We closed on our new home on December 31st.  Our 2nd house.  We were only in the apartment short term while the house was being built.

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Just pay it and be done with it... Sucks, but it is what it is. $700 and it is over, not worth time/aggravation.

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3 minutes ago, gianmarco said:

We're in May.  This already happened.  Now they're just looking to collect on the remainder of the bill that they weren't paid.

I did think it odd that he was looking ahead to Jan 2016 here.

 

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So far, who is trying to collect this?  The apartment complex?  Collection agency?

This is now less a LL-T issue and more a FDCPA issue.

If it is the apartment complex, I'd make a low-ball offer ($200?) as "full and final settlement" of your account.  If they don't accept it, let them sue you or send it to collections.

If it goes to collections, immediately notify the collections agency that the debt is disputed.  This will prevent them from reporting to credit reporting agencies.

 

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Just a general question:  Can they just send this to collections on him or would they have to sue in small claims to get a judgment first?

For me, if it's the former, I'd pay it now.  If the latter, I wouldn't give them a dime.

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8 minutes ago, jwb said:

meh, you have good credit (I'm assuming), a good job, and are a good guy. You already have your house/etc. They were awful on the smoke thing.

In short, they can do very little to you, collections or not. If you can handle the phone call annoyance and mail reminders from companies who buy the debt at pennies on the dollar, @#$% them.

I appreciate that man.  It kinda makes me feel slimy acting this way about it as this isn't typically how I handle situations like this, but their avoidance of admitting any responsibility just annoys the hell out of me.

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Just pay the bill.  There is a process that you should have gone through in order to cancel your lease without paying termination fees.  In the end you are going to be paying for a lot more than the 700.  How much was your deposit?  You really don't want them suing you for damages on top of the fee.  Your approach is quite frankly extremely confrontational.  I can see why they would give you an attitude. 

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23 minutes ago, Idiot Boxer said:

So far, who is trying to collect this?  The apartment complex?  Collection agency?

This is now less a LL-T issue and more a FDCPA issue.

If it is the apartment complex, I'd make a low-ball offer ($200?) as "full and final settlement" of your account.  If they don't accept it, let them sue you or send it to collections.

If it goes to collections, immediately notify the collections agency that the debt is disputed.  This will prevent them from reporting to credit reporting agencies.

 

Nothing is in collections yet.  We sent over the payment last week after receiving the final statement at the end of April.

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2 minutes ago, sbonomo said:

Just pay the bill.  There is a process that you should have gone through in order to cancel your lease without paying termination fees.  In the end you are going to be paying for a lot more than the 700.  How much was your deposit?  You really don't want them suing you for damages on top of the fee.  Your approach is quite frankly extremely confrontational.  I can see why they would give you an attitude. 

What exactly was "extremely confrontational"?

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1 minute ago, trogg78 said:

Burn the place down on January 9th.

I think the neighbors were well on their way to doing that.

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Just now, doowain said:

What exactly was "extremely confrontational"?

Sending them a letter letting them know you are not paying your contractually obligated bill and that you would be terminating a lease early.  I would tell you to pound sand as well. 

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3 minutes ago, sbonomo said:

Just pay the bill.  There is a process that you should have gone through in order to cancel your lease without paying termination fees.  In the end you are going to be paying for a lot more than the 700.  How much was your deposit?  You really don't want them suing you for damages on top of the fee.  Your approach is quite frankly extremely confrontational.  I can see why they would give you an attitude. 

If they fixed the smoke after the first or second time, i'd agree. But they didn't, and clearly had no clue how to.

That would annoy me as well. 

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7 minutes ago, sbonomo said:

Just pay the bill.  There is a process that you should have gone through in order to cancel your lease without paying termination fees.  In the end you are going to be paying for a lot more than the 700.  How much was your deposit?  You really don't want them suing you for damages on top of the fee.  Your approach is quite frankly extremely confrontational.  I can see why they would give you an attitude. 

Terrible advice.

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5 minutes ago, sbonomo said:

Sending them a letter letting them know you are not paying your contractually obligated bill and that you would be terminating a lease early.  I would tell you to pound sand as well. 

We have different definitions of "confrontational" then.  To me it would mean barging into their office demanding that it be fixed or I was leaving.  If anything I was passive. 

 

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3 minutes ago, Idiot Boxer said:

Terrible advice.

I have owned rental properties for years, granted in AZ and CA which are both very tenant friendly states.  I don't think I have ever lost an early termination small claims suit.  Collecting is another animal all together but I have become quite proficient at filing liens which will follow the renter for a long time.  Curious to hear your advice?

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7 minutes ago, sbonomo said:

I have owned rental properties for years, granted in AZ and CA which are both very tenant friendly states.  I don't think I have ever lost an early termination small claims suit.  Collecting is another animal all together but I have become quite proficient at filing liens which will follow the renter for a long time.  Curious to hear your advice?

Now your pro-landlord responses make more sense.

So, say you are the company that runs this community.  You have two chances to fix this issue.  An issue that, according to their maintenance guy, happens all the time (you would think that means they know how to fix it).  You don't fix it, even a little bit.  You don't think your tenant has any right to bail?

ETA: Maybe you'll say I should've given them more chances?  They didn't fix it the first two times, what makes me think they'll suddenly figure it out?  Where is the line?

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1 minute ago, doowain said:

Now your pro-landlord responses make more sense.

So, say you are the company that runs this community.  You have two chances to fix this issue.  An issue that, according to their maintenance guy, happens all the time.  You don't fix it, even a little bit.  You don't think your tenant has any right to bail?

But you weren't leaving because of that.  You left because your house was done.

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1 minute ago, sbonomo said:

I have owned rental properties for years, granted in AZ and CA which are both very tenant friendly states.  I don't think I have ever lost an early termination small claims suit.  Collecting is another animal all together but I have become quite proficient at filing liens which will follow the renter for a long time.  Curious to hear your advice?

Did you fix the things you were supposed to fix? I would agree that simply "not paying" is definitely wrong. In Doowain's case, he has a legit gripe. The property owner did not hold up their end of the bargain either.  

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6 minutes ago, Foosball God said:

But you weren't leaving because of that.  You left because your house was done.

Wrong. 

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Just now, doowain said:

Wrong.

So even if your house wouldn't have been completed you would have bailed on your lease early?

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4 minutes ago, Foosball God said:

But you weren't leaving because of that.  You left because your house was done.

not really true. He did say that they planned to spend Jan slowly moving / painting. The smoke issue changed that.

Granted, it wasn't  "let's take our baby to the shelter and live there" bad, but bad enough to say "the heck with slowly moving - as soon as it's done, we're gone"

ETA: Not to be snarky, but did you read the first post?

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3 minutes ago, Foosball God said:

So even if your house wouldn't have been completed you would have bailed on your lease early?

I didn't want to move yet.  I wanted time to paint (3700 sq ft takes a while) and slowly move in.  I didn't want to rush it.  But the second I had another option other than waiting for them to fix the problem, I took it.  If my house was done in November I'd have left then too.  I had movers lined up for end of January.  I had to move it up 3 weeks which cost me more out of pocket because they had to come on the weekend.  

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1 hour ago, sbonomo said:

I have owned rental properties for years, granted in AZ and CA which are both very tenant friendly states.  I don't think I have ever lost an early termination small claims suit.  Collecting is another animal all together but I have become quite proficient at filing liens which will follow the renter for a long time.  Curious to hear your advice?

Clearly you have a very pro-landlord view of this.  Telling him to "pound sand" because he notified his landlord on two occasions to solve a problem with the unit which was never solved.  Calling him "confrontational" for pointing out that the landlord beached the terms of the lease and for not paying for any time that he didn't occupy the property even after giving sufficient notice for the landlord to mitigate damages.  I don't know a single small claims court that would award any money damages under those circumstances.  

 

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1 hour ago, doowain said:

Nothing is in collections yet.  We sent over the payment last week after receiving the final statement at the end of April.

Sent over what payment? To the Landlord? The $700 mentioned in post #1? I'm not following this part. 

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