Overview of Enforcement Options
When a tenant violates to the terms or conditions of a lease agreement, enforcing the terms of the tenancy may be as simple as sending a letter to the tenant pointing out the lease violation and requesting tenant’s compliance. In many cases, a properly drafted letter or notice may resolve any potential dispute thereby avoiding any need for an eviction or other litigation. If the violation is serious or repeated, a more formal eviction notice may be necessary. We assist our clients with the preparation of appropriate letters and notices to enforce lease agreements and, where necessary, file unlawful detainer actions or breach of lease actions to enforce the terms of tenancy.
Landlord’s Action for Rent and Damages
Where a tenant breaches a lease and is evicted or abandons the rental premises, the landlord is entitled to file a lawsuit against the tenant to recover rent and other damages. The fact the tenant has vacated the unit, or otherwise been ousted of possession by legal procedures to terminate the lease, does not relieve the tenant of the rental obligation for the balance of the term. This is so even if an unlawful detainer judgment against the breaching tenant adjudicated a forfeiture of the lease. In addition to the rent, the landlord is entitled to recover any other amount necessary to compensate the landlord for all the detriment caused by the tenant’s failure to perform his obligations under the lease including attorneys fees (if lease entitles the prevailing party to an award of attorney fees) and court costs. Provided, however, the landlord has a duty to mitigate its damages by using reasonable efforts to re-let the premises. The tenant is entitled to an offset for any rental loss that the tenant proves could have been reasonably avoided. In other words, the tenant is responsible to pay the rent for the remainder of the term of the lease less amounts the landlord has or will receive during that period from a replacement tenant.
If the lease contains certain language specified by statute, the landlord does not need to wait until the lease expires to file the lawsuit. Instead, the landlord can file a lawsuit immediately upon the tenant’s abandonment or other premature termination of the lease for all past, present and future rent.
With respect to month-to-month tenancies, a tenant who vacates on insufficient notice is obligated to pay rent for the minimum notice period beginning when the tenant did give notice or, if no notice was given, beginning when he or she vacated.