Dealing with a Broken Tenant Lease

You and your partner have purchased a home in Orlando and have adopted a baby, you’re likely to need more space. When you find the perfect place for your new family, you might consider selling your current home, but, you want to hold onto it a bit longer as real estate values continue to rise.

The alternative is to rent your property and let someone else make the mortgage payment. You talk it over with your partner and decide that renting is the way to go. You put an ad in the paper and on a few LGBT sites, and the calls begin to roll-in. You screen the applicants and find one that’s ready to move and has first and last month’s rent, along with a security deposit. Several months go by and the rent comes on-time then one month, it suddenly stops.

Assessing the Situation

You try and get in touch with your tenant to no avail and now, you’re panicking a bit because you need to rent it out again. First and foremost, don’t focus solely on the vacated tenant, that’s a recipe for stress, frustration, and all kinds of problems.

When your tenant breaks a lease by leaving the rental property before the term expires, you have the right to collect the money you are owed. A lease agreement with a fixed term means the tenant owes you rent until you can lease the property out again to a qualified renter or the lease expires, whichever happens first. Whether the tenant gave you notice or simply vacated in secret, the methods for collecting rent are the same. —San Francisco Chronicle

The best thing to do is focus on renting again, while still trying to recover the money you’re owed. This will be difficult because of the problematic nature of the situation, but necessary to save your sanity. You can do both, just don’t become myopic or you’re asking for trouble.

What to Do with a Broken Tenant Lease

First and foremost, start by taking a deep breath and assessing your rental property’s condition. You’ll want to take note of any damage and then get repair estimates from at least three professionals. It will behoove you to have any damage repaired quickly so it’s in rentable condition. Then, repeat the same steps you did to find the last tenant and get it rented again. Once you do so, you can then pursue the previous tenant:

  • Send the previous tenant a written letter. Remind the person who broke the lease they violated a legal contract and include the specific language in the lease. In addition, state that you are keeping part or all of the security deposit and list the costs of any repairs.
  • Prepare to file a lawsuit. You’ll need to have a copy of the lease, documents and photos pertaining to any damage and repairs, as well as the amount the tenant owes from the day of vacancy until the end of the lease and/or the amount of time it was vacant.
  • Go to small claims court. The jurisdictional limit of small claims in Florida is $5,000. Fill out the necessary forms and file the suit. If you don’t feel comfortable with filing a suit, call an attorney.