Coronavirus Lease Termination Letter Sample Form Contract Breach

How to Terminate Your Lease at University Village Towers, GrandMarc At University Village, University Riverside Gardens, The Palms on University, & Highlander At North Campus at UC Riverside

As the official, volunteer landlord-tenant lawyers for the Associated Students of UC Riverside Legal Clinic, we have been inundated with questions from UCR students who signed leases near the UCR campus where no classes are being held in Fall 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We have numerous strategies to provide to these students during this unusual, global event.

First, this post is primarily directed at students who signed their leases prior to the State of Emergency that was declared nationally on March 13, 2020. Those who signed their leases after this date will have a more difficult time alleging that the pandemic is an unforeseen circumstance. Nonetheless, it may still be unforeseen that an entire college campus is now closed.

First Rule of Negotiation: Know When to Walk Away

Before we get into the tips and tricks on how to terminate a lease at UCR, it is very important to enter every negotiation in life knowing when you are willing to walk away. If the other side senses that you will always say yes to giving them what they want even if the other side says “no” to all of your requests, you can bet your bottom dollar that the other will indeed say “no” to every request. Your power as a student or parent-guarantor on any of these leases is your willingness to not make payment under the lease voluntarily.

In other words, your willingness to force the other side (the landlord) to obtain involuntary payment through the time and effort required to file a civil lawsuit is your power. If the landlord senses that you are so afraid of this option that you will pay them in full every month just to avoid this happening, you will get absolutely nothing in your negotiation. If you’re too afraid of such consequences, don’t read further because you are wasting your time. Go back to studying for your classes so that you can make lots of money after college to pay off all of the debts you incurred because you are too afraid to negotiate.

Remember that the downside of paying your lease that don’t want to pay is that you no longer have your money! Instead, your landlord has your money! Keep in mind that this is the landlord you believe is not owed any money based on the defenses to enforcement of a contract that you believe should apply. Seemingly, every payment you make is you losing and the landlord winning. If you’re willing to play the game of negotiation, please read further.

1) Offer the Landlord a Lump Sum for Termination

The most common technique to terminate a lease is to offer the landlord a lump sum of money in exchange for termination. Commonly, this involves the rental deposit plus two or perhaps more months of rent. This allows the landlord to re-let the property to hopefully mitigate their damages or even double collect if they can find a new tenant in a short period of time. However, it seems doubtful right now that the landlord will find a new tenant, at least while the campus remains closed and they require tenants to be students.

We have a letter online that you can use to draft your request for lease termination.

2) Don’t Pay Your Rent

Another common strategy is to not pay the rent that you believe should be paid given the frustration of purpose under California law resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic. Often times, creditors who understand that the debtor/tenant knows their rights and is not afraid to withhold payment will offer a better deal.

One downside is that the landlord may try to ding your credit report. However, it may be years until your credit score makes any difference, e.g. if you try to buy a home.

They may also try to obtain a civil money judgment against you. However, landlords are probably hesitant to file a civil suit given the obvious Coronavirus defenses to breach of contract that may be raised as well as the public relations issues related to suing students under these circumstances.

The bottom line is that you should not pay a creditor if you don’t have the money. You  you may want to prioritize your basic living expenses first.

Note that landlords are prohibited from filing an unlawful detainer right now due to the emergency Rules or Court in California absent showing a health and safety violation. This means they cannot change your locks or otherwise kick you out until the Rules of Court are changed.

3) Turnover the Keys

If you’re not coming back, it may be wise to turnover the keys. This creates a defense that the landlord must take reasonable steps to mitigate their damages. This defense may make the landlord hesitant to file suit given the expense of this defense.

With regard to Grandmark, Highlander at North Campus, UV Towers, and the Palms, students are welcome to try these strategies to obtain a better result than paying the full rate for a room they don’t need.

4) Find a New Tenant

Landlords have a duty to mitigate their damages, but not all landlords will show your empty unit if they have other empty units. Interestingly, UV Tower does not specify on its website that it rents only to non-students. It may be wise to propose to the landlord a specific tenant who wishes to move in, whether it be a student or not.

5) Don’t Worry About it Because Landlord’s Don’t Always Sue

Just because the landlord claims you are breaching a lease doesn’t mean the landlord will file suit. Our research shows that nearly all of the lawsuits filed by these landlords are for unlawful detainers, meaning a student is in possession of a property and likely didn’t pay their rent. However, there are very few, if any, lawsuits for breach of a lease.

6) Don’t Worry About it Because Landlords Don’t Necessary Ding Your Credit

The final fear of students appears to be a dinged credit score. However, we have yet to hear from any student whose credit report shows a breach of a lease at UCR. Perhaps it has happened, but we’ve never heard of it. If you have, contact us! Nonetheless, let’s suppose there is some chance that you will have a ding on your credit. Would you rather pay your rent in full or have the chance, however small, of a negative credit report? It’s important to weigh these options, rather than live in fear.

7) If the Landlord Doesn’t File a Lawsuit for Breach of the Lease, they Can’t Take Anything from You to Pay Their Damages

A common question is whether the landlord can pay themselves their alleges damages from the property owned by a student or their parents without filing a lawsuit. The answer is that there is no way that any party without a security interest (e.g., a mortgage or car lien holder) can take property from you unless they first go to court and obtain a judgment signed by a judge stating that you owe money.

8) If the Landlord Files a Suit, They Can Only Get to Certain Assets

Even if the landlord obtained a judgment, their ability to collect can be difficult. First, they have to find your assets, such as your bank account. This might require a judgment debtor’s examination, which can be expensive, meaning that few creditors would go through such trouble if they are owed only a few thousand dollars.  Even if they located your assets, certain assets are exempt, such as recent earnings, social security, etc.

9) No, Landlords Cannot Have You Deported for Breaching a Lease

Sadly, there are rumors, sometimes spreads by landlords, that if you breach your lease, your status as foreign student at UCR will be in jeopardy. We are aware of no impact that breaching any type of contract would have on your immigration status in America.

10) Do Not Pay the GrandMarc or Other Landlord’s “Termination Fee” Unless You Have In Writing that the Termination is Approved

We are hearing that many students are paying GrandMarc a $700 termination fee under the belief that this terminates their contract. To the contrary, that fee is merely an assignment fee if you find a new tenant to take over your lease. However, we are hearing very few stories of anyone getting someone else to take over their lease.

11) Make a Calculated Risk

Let’s suppose the worst case scenario is that you owe $12,000 in rent plus $2,000 in attorney’s fees, and there is only a 10% chance that the landlord will ever file a lawsuit. That means that your risk is about $1,400. It is important throughout your life to make calculated risks, rather than living in fear of something that has only a limited chance of ever occurring or causing damage to you.

12) Stop Worrying about the Landlord Giving You a Written Termination of Lease That They Will Never Provide

At the end of the day, you may decide that it makes more sense not to pay the landlord and see what happens. If you do so, stop worrying about something you cannot control, namely whether the landlord will ever give you a written termination of your lease in exchange for some amount of money to be paid. The landlords are large, corporate organizations that have their own policies to further the primary goal for essentially every business: to make money.  These landlords may have concluded that they will make money by refusing to give anyone a lease termination, but instead hope that students and parents fork over their hard earned money for a rental they will not use based on their fear of being sued or having a ding on their credit. They are welcome to take this strategy, and you are welcome to move on with your life.

Draft Letter Terminating Lease

Without an understanding of the facts in your case, we are unable to provide you with legal advice on whether to terminate your lease. However, if you have decided to do so, below is an email you might want to send to your landlord:

Dear Landlord:

Please accept this notice of termination of the lease that I understand you allege I am bound to perform despite the Coronavirus pandemic occuring after the date of our lease.

Of particular concern is that I have not been provided with specific, written assurances that I will not contract COVID-19 if I move in to your student housing, the density of which is contrary to the advice of medical experts suggesting social distancing.

Absent evidence of my safety in your student housing, and coupled with the closure of the nearby UCR campus that your marketing materials made clear would be materially important for any tenant in your building, there has been a frustration of purpose.

Even further, as a landlord, you have a duty to mitigate your damages by accepting others to rent within the complex. Because the lease you had me sign did not designate any particular unit within your complex, if you lease any further unit, it is fair to assume that the unit you rented was my unit, meaning you have no further alleged damages against me.

Please understand that if I find that your office has filed suit or provided any negative credit report, I will vigorously pursue all remedies while also expressing my opinion about your business practices through all available online reviews.

Best Regards,

[Your Name]

Landlords are Playing Hardball and So Should You!

We’ve spoken to many sources who tell us that the landlords are refusing to agree to anything less than full rent. In the game of negotiation, this is called playing hardball. Or, perhaps, you might even call it insulting. It’s important for students to know how to play this game of hardball, as well. One of the most powerful tools you have is to not pay them, and let them know you are not paying them because you do not believe the rent is owed. Once they know that you know how to play the game, they will get serious about settlement.

This post is written by real estate attorney in Riverside Scott Talkov as part of Talkov Law’s commitment to pro bono service.

Thanks to Riverside City Councilman Andy Melendrez and students at UCR for inspiring this post.

Our Exclusive Research Showing that Student Landlords near UCR Rarely (If Ever) File Suit for Breach of Contract

In any negotiation, it is important to size up your competition. What is it that your opponent in the negotiation will do if they do not get what they want? Our research shows that the landlords near UCR appear to rarely, if ever, file a lawsuit for breach of a lease agreement. Instead, nearly all of the lawsuit that we reviewed after finding them on the Riverside County Superior Court website appeared to be related to unlawful detainers, which means that a student/tenant was evicted because they remained in possession, but were not paying the rent or perhaps were violating the rules of the building, such as getting into fights, damaging property, or being too noisy.

Rather, most of the cases below are for unlawful detainer (usually the Moreno Valley Courthouse), meaning the student did not hand over the keys, but likely wasn’t paying rent. You are welcome to review these cases on the Riverside County Superior Court website to look for yourself whether the landlords really file lawsuits because a student or their parent(s) did not pay rent in a case unrelated to obtaining possession (i.e., an unlawful detainer / eviction).

We randomly selected 10 cases from our list, below. All 10 of the 10 cases we checked were unlawful detainers, meaning the landlord wanted possession of the unit. There were 0 cases in the random sample of 10 in which the landlord filed a civil action solely for monetary damages for failure to pay rent. Zero. Give that some thought before you assume that the landlord will be suing you and/or your parent(s) for breach of a lease. Landlords have probably concluded that it’s not worth their time.

Case Number Plaintiff Name Filing Date Jurisdiction Nature of Randomly Selected Cases
MVC1903800 The Palms on University 03/20/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
RIU001456 The Palms on University 05/05/2008 Superior Court- Riverside
RIS182503 The Palms on University 12/11/2006 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC453602 The Palms on University 07/21/2006 Superior Court- Riverside
MVC10004159 The Palms on University 7/14/2010 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
RIC452610 The Palms on University 7/3/2006 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC431432 The Palms on University 6/8/2005 Superior Court
MVS1803525 The Palms on University 10/23/2018 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVS1401410 The Palms on University 4/25/2014 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVS1200125 The Palms on University 1/12/2012 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVS1704131 The Palms on University 11/20/2017 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVS1902032 The Palms on University 12/3/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
RIC1813939 University Village Apartments 7/10/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1813944 University Village Apartments 7/10/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1707087 University Village Apartments 4/20/2017 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
MVC1602825 University Village Apartments 8/4/2016 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1602667 University Village Apartments 7/26/2016 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1601261 University Village Apartments 4/13/2016 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1600898 University Village Apartments 3/9/2016 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1503467 University Village Apartments 9/14/2015 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1503377 University Village Apartments 9/3/2015 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1404724 University Village Apartments 11/18/2014 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1404456 University Village Apartments 10/27/2014 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1403449 University Village Apartments 8/21/2014 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
MVC1401490 University Village Apartments 4/15/2014 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1400131 University Village Apartments 1/10/2014 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1304256 University Village Apartments 10/8/2013 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1304257 University Village Apartments 10/8/2013 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1202428 University Village Apartments 5/17/2012 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
RIC396823 University Village Apartments 7/24/2003 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC389595 University Village Apartments 2/27/2003 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC383989 University Village Apartments 10/28/2002 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC378969 University Village Apartments 8/1/2002 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC376858 University Village Apartments 6/18/2002 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC364787 University Village Apartments 9/27/2001 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC358952 University Village Apartments 5/22/2001 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
RIC358960 University Village Apartments 5/22/2001 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC326313 University Village Apartments 4/13/1999 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC303392 University Village Apartments 10/22/1997 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC303393 University Village Apartments 10/22/1997 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV288393 University Village Apartments 10/31/1996 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV285683 University Village Apartments 8/30/1996 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV280859 University Village Apartments 5/10/1996 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
CIV275583 University Village Apartments 1/2/1996 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV265448 University Village Apartments 5/8/1995 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV265166 University Village Apartments 5/2/1995 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV265167 University Village Apartments 5/2/1995 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV261935 University Village Apartments 2/14/1995 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV260714 University Village Apartments 1/19/1995 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV260547 University Village Apartments 1/18/1995 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV255387 University Village Apartments 9/14/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV254540 University Village Apartments 8/25/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV254570 University Village Apartments 8/25/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV249535 University Village Apartments 5/3/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV249536 University Village Apartments 5/3/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV249537 University Village Apartments 5/3/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV247354 University Village Apartments 3/14/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV246252 University Village Apartments 2/17/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV244738 University Village Apartments 1/12/1994 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV241713 University Village Apartments 10/27/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV240787 University Village Apartments 10/7/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV240249 University Village Apartments 9/23/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV240250 University Village Apartments 9/23/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV236153 University Village Apartments 6/22/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV236156 University Village Apartments 6/22/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV236157 University Village Apartments 6/22/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV235180 University Village Apartments 6/2/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV235185 University Village Apartments 6/2/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV235123 University Village Apartments 6/1/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV229500 University Village Apartments 1/25/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV229502 University Village Apartments 1/25/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV229504 University Village Apartments 1/25/1993 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV224511 University Village Apartments 10/1/1992 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV224513 University Village Apartments 10/1/1992 Superior Court- Riverside
CIV221371 University Village Apartments 7/30/1992 Superior Court- Riverside
MVC1912495 HRA Highlander, LLC DBA Highlander at North Campus 10/17/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1912327 HRA Highlander, LLC DBA Highlander at North Campus 10/9/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1912329 HRA Highlander, LLC DBA Highlander at North Campus 10/9/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1907247 HRA Highlander, LLC DBA Highlander at North Campus 6/12/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1904465 HRA Highlander, LLC DBA Highlander at North Campus 4/2/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1904055 HRA Highlander, LLC DBA Highlander at North Campus 3/25/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
MVC1912512 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/17/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1912514 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/17/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1912330 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/9/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1910310 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 8/22/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1908624 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 7/18/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1908625 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 7/18/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1906422 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 5/20/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1906424 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 5/20/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1906427 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 5/20/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1906430 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 5/20/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1906432 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 5/20/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1905169 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 4/18/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1903827 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 3/20/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1902228 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/19/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
MVC1900388 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 1/22/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
RIC1827402 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 12/19/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
RIC1824613 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 11/20/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1821550 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/19/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1821551 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/19/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1821253 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/17/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1821257 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/17/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
RIC1821261 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/17/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1814809 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 7/19/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1807332 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 4/20/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1807333 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 4/20/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803699 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803701 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803703 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803704 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803705 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803713 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803717 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803718 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
RIC1803721 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803725 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1803726 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
RIC1803729 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 2/23/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
RIC1827400 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 12/19/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
MVC1908623 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 7/18/2019 Superior Court – Moreno Valley
RIC1821240 SSC Riverside Apartments, LLC DBA the Palms on University 10/17/2018 Superior Court- Riverside
Unlawful Detainer to Obtain Possesion
MVS1804006 3996 Iowa Gardens LLC DBA University Riverside Gardens 12/11/2018 Superior Court – Moreno Valley