Did the tenant surrender the lease, or abandon it? Does it matter? It does, if the landlord still wants to get that rent that’s not going to be paid now!

A tenant may “abandon” or “surrender” a lease before the lease is scheduled to end. In the first instance, an “abandonment,” all the rent remaining due for the entire lease can still be collected by a landlord. The landlord may re-rent the space abandoned, and if that is done, the tenant will get “credit” for the rent received from any “new” or “replacement” tenant. In the second instance, a “surrender,” the remaining rent obligation is waived by the landlord, and cannot be collected.

Generally, a surrender must be expressly made; but a landlord can fall into a trap by impliedly accepting a surrender and losing the right to collect otherwise due rent. How? By leasing the property to another without stating the new lease is on behalf of the old tenant, by remodeling the space so as to make it unusable by the first tenant, or by agreeing to return the security deposit upon receiving keys from the old tenant, or by taking over the tenant’s position as an “assignor” if there is already a sub-lease or assignment.

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