Rent obligation rules for early move-out

Rent it Right

Q: I was renting month-to-month and decided to move in with my girlfriend. I gave written notice mid-month, which included an acknowledgment that I’d be responsible for a pro-rata portion of rent into the next month. But when I spoke with the manager, he assured me that my responsibility for rent would end with the current calendar month.

He repeated this when I saw him again. Based on this, I hurried up and left the unit, empty and spotless, at the end of the month; and I began my new rental two weeks earlier than planned.

Then I got an email from the manager, who had spoken with the owner, saying "it turns out" that his understanding of my rent obligation was wrong — I would indeed be charged for rent into the next month. Is this legal? –David G.

A: The property manager is your landlord’s legal agent when he handles the duties that he was hired to do. The owner (known in legalese as the "principal") is responsible for the agent’s acts as long as the agent acted within the scope of his duties.

For example, an agent who disregards state privacy law and enters tenants’ homes without notice or for impermissible reasons will expose the landlord to liability, such as having no legal defense to a broken lease when the tenant justifiably leaves in protest.