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Landlord asks for, takes keys back, but expects rent?

NYC Housing Court Practice/Procedures

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Landlord asks for, takes keys back, but expects rent?

Postby flockie12 » Sat May 16, 2009 9:24 pm

My wife and I broke up and moved out of the apartment, 3 months into a new lease. We asked to be let out of the lease, but received no answer. We paid the current month's rent, without living in the apartment. Last week, the landlord asked us for the keys back, saying they needed us to vacate formally in order for them to start showing to potential tenants.
We agreed, thinking this meant we were being let off the hook for the remaining rent. But, they are holding we are liable for the rent until a new tenant is found (according to the lease). The apartment is overpriced for the current market situation, and it may take a while to rent it out. We offered a $1000 bonus, and still no interested people. I am wondering what this request for the keys meant, especially since it prevents us from showing the apartment (and have every reason to be proactive). Thanks!
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Postby TenantNet » Sun May 17, 2009 10:06 am

A lease is a contract for a period of time. If you move out, you are normally responsible for the rent for the remainder of the term.

There are exceptions. If the owner breached the lease by not providing services or allowing conditions to deteriorate. However those usually must be substantial. You would also be released if the owner re-rented the place (usually for the same or higher rent).

A landlord may show the unit. We've been over that hundreds of times in this forum. Normally that's an issue of access. Tenants must give access under reasonable circumstances, but there is room to negotiate. See the access thread in the reference section of the forum (link above).

When the LL asked for keys, was it so he could show the unit? Or was it a transfer of possession? That's the key here. Did you give notice? Did you get a receipt for the keys? Did the landlord give you a release?

Now, a LL does not need a tenant to formally vacate as you put it. They can show the unit with the tenant in place. This is why there are often disputes over access. So that is BS from the LL.

But if he asked you to vacate, and you can document that, that shows he knew of your intent to leave and that he asked you to do so, and that the reason for the keys being given back was to transfer possession. You would only be showing it on your own if you wanted to assign the lease or sublet.

While I question whether the LL has a viable claim given what you've said, one thing you can do is to ask for the keys back -- if they intend to claim you're still bound by the lease. If they demand the rent, then you still have possession (legally).
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Landlord asks for keys back requires rent until end of lease

Postby flockie12 » Mon May 18, 2009 9:06 am

Thanks a lot for a quick and useful response! I appreciate it very much.
You raised some important questions, and here is my clarification of the situation. Any additional comments my would be great.

1. My LL is a large management company, and even after 5 years of living there, I do not know if they own the building (in which case their incentives may be different).

2. They have not been all that great in maintaining the apartment (e.g. have not addressed a water leak and wall cracks on the kitchen wall for 3 years), but I would not go there. I have pictures of the place, and they concluded it was kept in good enough shape (even improved), that I deserve a full deposit back.

3. APT VACANCY: The reason that LL knows that my ex wife and I have vacated the apartment a few months ago is because they discovered non-reported sub-renters in the apartment. My reason for not reporting them was that LL asked for a 10% rent hike, which the sub-renters were not willing to pay, and I could not, because I was already subsidizing their rent. I paid all sub-lease fees retroactively.

4. The problem started when the sub-renters decided to leave, and now the landlord does not want to consider a sublease or assignment, claiming my 'immoral behavior'.

5. I asked LL to allow us to walk 3 weeks ago, and they simply ignored my email. So, no formal release has been given.

6. KEY RETURN. LL literally told me that I need to return the keys:
a) so that they get the apartment back. But no mention of the 'return of possession' - I only got a letter stating the I have vacated the apartment.
b) so that they can repaint it for a potential new tenant, and
c) so that they can start showing the apartment, because they cannot show it while I have the keys.

7. They also asked that I direct the people responding to my ads directly to them. I decided to keep on posting ads because I am afraid they will not be proactive in looking for a tenant.

8. I do not have an interest in asking for keys back, because we have moved away (within NYC), and the apartment would stay empty in any case.

Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!
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