Q: Our landlord deducted several hundred dollars from our security deposit after he saw the damage that resulted when we left a window open during a rainstorm (the rain damaged a hardwood floor and soaked a wall). We replenished the deposit as asked — then he gave us a termination notice! Can he do that? –Wes V.

A: I can understand your consternation over what’s happened. You made a mistake, paid for it, and promptly topped off the security deposit. But then you were given the boot.

If you have a lease (as opposed to a monthly rental agreement), the landlord can terminate midlease only for an allowable reason, and not for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

Now, it seems you have been somewhat careless with the property, resulting in damage; but that carelessness was not extreme, and the damage appears to have been both fixable and fixed.

In other words, you have not committed "waste," a legal term that refers to extreme damage, both in how it’s caused (often involving gross carelessness or even intentional acts) and its extent. A claim of "waste," if the landlord can prove it, will usually support a lease termination. Mere carelessness, however, doesn’t qualify.

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