Question: Four months ago, my wife and I signed a three year agreement to rent a home in Carefree. My wife passed away last month. I would now like to move to Los Angeles to be near my children. When I contacted my landlord to tell him I wanted to move out early, he was upset. He said he would cancel the lease with me only when he found a new tenant. In addition, he demanded that I sign a bill of sale transferring all of my furniture to him, surrender the security deposit of $3,000, and reimburse him for a leasing commission that he paid to a leasing agent. I told my landlord that I would be willing to stay in the home and pay rent for no more than six months before I move. What can the landlord do to me?
Answer: If the tenant breaches the lease, the landlord’s first obligation is to make reasonable efforts to find a new tenant, such as hiring a leasing agent and advertising in newspapers. If you notify the landlord that you intend to move out in six months, you have probably anticipatorily breached the lease. Therefore, the landlord will be required to make these efforts now to find a tenant. The landlord should be able to find a new tenant within six months. Although you will have to reimburse the landlord for reasonable marketing expenses, you would be entitled to the return of your furniture. In addition, if your home is left clean you would be entitled to the return of your security deposit.