Some readers have asked about a residential tenant's responsibility for rent when the tenant vacates the leased premises before the end of the term.
Before signing a lease for a house or apartment, a tenant should read the lease carefully to see if it contains a liquidated damages clause or an early termination clause. Some leases allow the tenant to terminate the lease before the end of the term by paying two months rent (or less) after the tenant vacates the leased premises. Other leases have no limitation on the tenant's liability and make the tenant liable for rent until the end of the term.
Maryland law provides limited relief to tenants who vacate residential premises before the end of the lease term.
The landlord has a statutory duty to mitigate damages when a tenant terminates occupancy before the end of the term. The landlord must make reasonable efforts to re-rent the vacated house or apartment. The law does not require the landlord to show or lease the vacated dwelling unit in preference to other available units.
If a tenant or authorized occupant is no longer able to live at the leased premises because of a medical condition, liability may be limited to two months' rent after the date on which the tenant vacates.
The tenant must provide the landlord with a written certification from a licensed Maryland physician in substantially this form: "I, (name of physician), hereby certify that my patient, (name of patient), is no longer able to live at his or her leased premises, (address of leased premises), because the patient has a medical condition that: (1) substantially restricts the physical mobility of the patient within, or from entering and exiting, the leased premises; or (2) requires the patient to move to a home, facility, or institution to obtain a higher level of care than can be provided at the leased premises.
"I certify further that the expected duration of the patient's medical condition will continue beyond the termination date of the patient's lease, which the patient states is (termination date of lease)."
The tenant also must give the landlord a written notice of termination of the lease, stating the date by which he will leave.
Tenants concerned about health issues should try to negotiate a lease addendum that limits liability for rent if they vacate the premises for health reasons or die during the lease term.