Thank you for your question. Good luck with your situaton. Here is my
advice to you.
Breaking the Lease--
You will need to examine your lease to see what the clauses
are for breaking it-- many leases have an early termination fee.
Luckily for you, according to Michigan law, the landlord must help
find someone to take your place (this does not precude any early
termination fees, however)-- so in other words, you probably won't be
stuck paying the rent until the lease is up. But this mainly depends
on what clauses are in your contract. This will also depend mainly on
your landlord-- do you rent from an individual or from a
company? An individual is usually much easier to negotiate with/ deal
with in this situation, but your landlord does seem to be
unreasonable. In some cases, someone breaking their lease
might lose their security deposit. But this is illegal in Michigan:
"Tenants are guaranteed certain rights under the law. Some leases
contain provisions which attempt to waive these rights. Such
provisions are prohibited by Michigan P.A. 454, of 1978, the Truth in
Renting Act. The following explains the types of provisions which are
prohibited and what to do if your lease contains such a provision:
'My lease says I forfeit my security deposit if I break my lease.'
The use of security deposits is governed by Michigan P.A. 348,1972.
Your lease cannot waive any of your rights under the Security Deposit
Act. A security deposit has a specific purpose: to reimburse the
landlord for damage to the rental unit, unpaid rent, or unpaid utility
bills left by the tenant."
The law can be perused here:
Michigan Tenant Resources
"If you wish to break the lease, you should inform your landlord in
writing as soon as possible. Your landlord is obligated by law to try
to find someone to move in, in order to mitigate damages. The landlord
should advertise the vacancy in the newspaper, etc.
If the landlord's attempts at finding someone else to move in are
unsuccessful, you may be held responsible for rent for the time the
place stays vacant. The more notice the landlord has, the less likely
it is that you will have to pay. Once the landlord signs a lease with
someone else through the end of your lease, you are no longer
responsible for the lease. There is a possibility that, if the
landlord signs a lease with someone else for a lower dollar amount,
you would be responsible for paying the difference. You may want to
help look for a new tenant, thus reducing the risk of getting stuck
with the lease.
Your landlord must attempt to find someone else to move in to mitigate
damages. You would be required to pay rent for as long as the place
stays vacant. It is therefore in your best interest to help find
someone to move in."
Early Termination Fees--
"Some leases have clauses requiring that the tenant pay a certain
amount of money for terminating the lease early. If this fee is higher
than what re-rental would actually cost the landlord, consider
refusing to pay it. For example, three months rent is probably not
reasonable. If the amount is reasonable, you may opt to pay it so as
to walk away from the deal without any worries. In any case, you
should put any agreement you reach with the landlord in writing."
"Subletting is one of the most common ways a tenant can get out of
paying full rent for a place in which they do not wish to live. When
you sublet, you essentially become a landlord. You negotiate a
contract with a subtenant and you may collect a security deposit from
I've had friends in this situation before and they did everything they
could, advertising on Craigslist, posting flyers, etc., in order to
get a new tenant to sublease. You will want to start doing that
immediately in order to get a tenant so that you won't have to pay the
entire rent until next August. Help things out by placing our
own ads and advertising the apartment yourself.
MSN -- Credit damage
The situation will probably only affect your credit if you leave
an unpaid bill with the landlord. If you go to the landlord and
explain in advance that you want to leave and her reasons why, and
most importantly if you continue paying your rent and bills for the
apartment, it does not seem that that would reflect on her credit
report-- it's the landlord's choice to decide whether or not to "ding"
a credit report, and that would most likely be for failure to pay. In
other words, if you "terminate" the lease according to the terms of
the contract, probably with written notice and paying of an early
termination fee, and you help find a new tenant or pay until the landlord
gets a new tenant, you have done the best you could in the situation.
If you run off and never pay the landlord anything else and "break"
the lease, you will probably get a pretty large hit to your credit
report (or your fiance if the lease is under his name).
Landlord's failure to repair the place
This is an important issue and you will need to handle it carefully.
Renters' Rights, Northern Michigan
"Under Michigan law, a landlord is obligated to keep rental property
in reasonable repair and to comply with the health and safety laws.
Tenants are generally expected to assist the landlord in maintaining
the premises in a safe and sanitary condition, to promptly notify the
landlord of maintenance problems that require attention, and to leave
the premises in good condition."
Send a certified, return-receipt letter to the landlord stating what
repairs need to be done, when you have contacted him previously
regarding this matter, and stating that the repairs need to be taken
care of. You will then have proof that you contacted the landlord and
told him to do the repairs. If you have any previous evidence of this,
such as notes from the landlord, keep them.
"If a landlord is not maintaining rental property according to the
local housing code or the rental agreement, the tenant should first
discuss the matter with the landlord. If after this initial discussion
it appears that the landlord may not cooperate to correct defects, the
tenant should send a letter to the landlord. The problems discussed
should be restated and the landlord should be advised that action
would be taken if the problems were not resolved immediately."
You should have taken pictures when you moved in. Keep those pictures.
Take pictures with a digital camera when you move out (so that there
is a time and date stamp). This is so that you'll have proof what the
place looked like when you move out (so the landlord can't try to take
your security deposit unnecessarily). Take photos of all the defects
that you have wanted repaired, too.
If you want you can withhold rent until the repairs have been done.
Keep in mind that this will greatly upset your landlord and he might
just punish you by trying to list this on your credit report (as an
unpaid debt.) You may want to get some legal help from a legal clinic,
if you can (or from the state's attorney's office in your town).
Finally, you could pay for the repairs yourself and deduct them from the rent.
"A Tenant may make repairs and deduct the cost from the rent in
instances where the landlord fails to make such repairs. In order to
exercise this option, there must be:
* A duty to repair provided by statue (M.C.L.A. 554,139; M.S.A. 26.1109).
* Notice to the landlord that repairs are needed or actual
knowledge on the part of the landlord that repairs are needed.
* Reasonable lapse of time from the receipt of notice or actual
knowledge by the landlord in order that the landlord could make the
If these conditions have been met, the tenant may obtain repair cost
estimates from three companies. The landlord should be advised in
writing of these estimates and advised that the tenant will pay for
the repairs from the withheld rent or the next rental payment. The
tenant should establish a date by which the landlord should have
repairs completed and state that the tenant will resolve the problem
if the landlord does not do so by that date. A copy of the letter
should be kept for the tenant's records. The letter should be sent by
certified mail, return receipt requested."
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"Michigan P.A. 348,1972"
I hope this answers your questions and good luck with your situation!
If you need any additional clarification or help, please let me know
and I'll be glad to assist you.