Yes, there is rent agreement; but you can still end it in these emergency circumstances
She’s sitting across from me, crying. The love of her life just died. She doesn’t know how she is going to pay rent now that she’s lost his pension.
A different woman, her kids playing quietly on my couch in the front room of my office, is begging me to tell her how she can get out of her lease. She signed it with her boyfriend a few months ago, but things have gotten so bad. So much worse, that she’s now gotten a protective order from the Justice Court to keep him away from her and her children. But with him gone, she’s also struggling to pay rent on the house they leased together.
A distraught man is shuffling papers at my conference table. He just had to place his mom in an assisted living facility. She isn’t going to have enough to pay the assisted living facility, let alone her rent. We need to discuss Medicaid, but we also need to discuss how to cancel her lease.
These people all share one thing in common: they do not want to break their word. They are people of honor, found in an untenable situation, and they are afraid that they cannot afford to break the lease because of the liability to the landlord. These are real people. In fact, I’ve had these types of conversations with many clients over the years — male and female, young and old. If you find yourself in this situation, I want to assure you that the law provides an exit from your lease that is both legal and does not leave you in further debt during your time of crisis.
Statutes provide that you may terminate a written lease, with appropriate notice, if one of the following occurs: the tenant becomes disabled, or is over the age 60, and cannot receive necessary medical treatment in the home; the spouse of a tenant dies, and the tenant is over age 60 or otherwise disabled; or, any tenant or household member is the victim of domestic violence. The tenant must provide 30 days advance notice of termination, and must provide that notice within two to three months of the triggering event (death, disability, or domestic violence). The notice must be in writing, and include proof of the triggering event (like a death certificate, sworn affidavit, or copy of a police report or protective order). In the case of a lease ending because of domestic violence, the party restrained by the protective order will continue to be liable for the lease (leaving the victim without risk of liability), and the landlord is prohibited by law from providing information to the perpetrator about the victim.
These situations are overwhelming, but they do not have to leave you under a crushing lease obligation. When I can help the widow or widower, victim of domestic violence, or caregiver child by relieving the threat of an unaffordable lease, I can see the weight come off his or her shoulders and the relief light up their eyes. It may be one small part of the problem, but it is a powerful lifeline to give someone
Cassandra Jones and Michael Millward are the attorneys of Heritage Law Group, P.C. Both are residents of Gardnerville, focusing their law practice on estate planning, business planning, and probate. They can be reached at 782-0040 or http://www.HeritageNevada.com.