No. of Recommendations: 3

You wrote, It's a principle of contract law that a person has an obligation to mitigate their damages.

You're actually getting into a bit of a grey area here. What are the reasonable actions required to mitigate damages? It will depend on a number of factors ... and a court will often not require the best judgement on the part of the injured party. At least that's been my understanding.

Also, Suppose someone signs a lease for a year and moves out after a month. Should a landlord be able to keep the place vacant and charge the tenant for a twelve months rent?

The answer is --- no. the landlord has an obligation to re rent the apartment as quickly as he reasonably can, and the obligation of the tenant to pay rent under the lease goes away when a new tenant starts paying rent.

It seems to me that there are several questions here that the court would need to review - assuming it got that far:

1. When did the landlord learn the property would be vacated?
2. How much did / would it cost for the landlord to market the property again?
3. What was a reasonable amount of time to rent a comparable property during the time involved?
4. Could the court even establish a comparable market for a rental of a single room? (I don't think you could do that in most states.)
5. What constraints does the state put on rental agreements that might influence the requirement to mitigate damages?

It certainly seems reasonable in your example for a landlord to attempt to re-rent a completely vacated property, given a normal rental market and a completely vacant apartment. But if you just shorten the vacancy from 11 months to say 2 months, would it be unreasonable for the landlord to claim he couldn't replace the tenant in that time?

Trying to fill a single ROOM in an apartment is likely to be more problematic. Sure, you can probably do it quickly if your near a college and the timing is right; but apacherose's son is leaving mid-school year. Such timing is probably going to make a room tough to fill. On average people are probably moving out - not looking for rooms.

Then again depending on the state laws and how the contract is worded, the landlord may not even have the OPTION of replacing apacherose's son as long as the other tenants are present. Since they possessed the property jointly, the presence of the remaining tenants probably makes it impossible for the landlord to unilaterally change the terms in any effort to mitigate his damages. Likely his only option would be to sue for eviction and damages when the rent isn't getting paid.

And if his local rental market is bad mid-school year, he may not even be motivated to evict while receiving partial payments because his total damages might be less by allowing the existing tenants remain ... depending on what they wind up paying him.

Now ... if you're addressing the obligations of the other roommates? As a practical matter, do you really think they're all that concerned right now about the fine details of contract law? They're college students after all.

- Joel
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