Can Landlords Break a Lease Deal?
Recently, I had a student ask if it was possible to break a lease deal when someone else showed an interest in a property that was already under a two-year option lease deal. I’m not an attorney so I can’t give a legal opinion but my professional opinion is that it’s not a good idea unless he wants to first make an agreement with the current tenant to break the existing lease deal in exchange for returning the option fee and any additional payments that would apply towards the purchase.
Breaking a Lease Deal
Another (bad) option is to become the dreaded and not respected landlord that scours the lease deal contract in search of a clause that allows the lease deal to be broken in favor of the landlord. This could be one payment that was five days late, a little too much garbage in the yard, or something else that you would otherwise overlook if it weren’t for the fact that you have a quick sale in the wings.
Breaking a lease deal in this manner can have repercussions for the seller if the tenant/buyer does plan to go through with the purchase. Or if the house is now worth more than the lease option purchase price. What it all means is that the tenant/buyer has equity via the existing lease deal. If he or she takes the seller to court, there is a good possibility that a judge will force a foreclosure rather than an eviction. Foreclosures take time and money and the second buyer will probably lose interest at that point.
Check on Your Existing Lease Deal
If you find yourself in a position of having another offer to buy that you want to go through with, the place to start is by asking your current tenant/buyer if they still plan to execute the purchase portion of the lease deal. It’s a fact that some lease deals to purchase the home never are executed. It could be that your tenant has decided not to purchase. You may be able to work out a simple deal to cancel the old lease purchase deal so that you can proceed with the new buyer.
Or the existing lease deal could move forward a little faster if your current tenant intends to purchase. Either way you could get your money sooner and without the hassle of going to court.
Don’t hire the lawyers. If you try to force an eviction and the tenant has filed a Memorandum of Agreement with the county or otherwise clouded the title to show an equity interest, you’re likely to have a legal fight on your hands. The laws vary from state to state but almost certainly you’re going to have to hire an attorney to resolve the issue. You’ll be much better off trying to directly negotiate a resolution with the tenant than going the expensive legal route of hiring an attorney to force them out.
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By Wendy Patton
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