Skip to main content

We have not taken possession & notified landlord 3 weeks before lease starts. Landlord wants us to pay the rent til its rerented

Vancouver, WA |

Before signing a lease we gave half the deposit. When we signed the lease under the deposit section it read "This amount will be used to hold & secure the property prior to taking possession. This amount is non-refundable in the event the lease is cancelled or retracted by the tenant". I notified the landlord today which is 20 days til the lease starts & he's claiming WA law states that we have to pay the rent til the place is re-rented. He's threatening to file a case at the court house. Am I wrong,I thought that since we don't have possession we are only out the deposit.Eveything about how this started was backwards. We gave the deposit, then we signed the lease, then he needed for us to do the background check, then he finally signed his part. Now before possession I need to cancel.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 2


Generally speaking, when you sign a lease, you're liable for the full amount. Even if you renege before you even move in. The landlord has a duty to mitigate damages. That means s/he must try to relet the premises as soon as possible. You're still on the hook for whatever amounts the landlord is out in the period of time s/he did not have the place rented.

However, you may have an argument under these facts that the deposit amount is a liquidated damages clause. Liquidated damages refers to an agreed upon amount of damages between two parties to a contract in the event of breach. Generally, when there is a liquidated damages clause in a contract, no further damages are allowed.

You should also read RCW 59.18.253, and hire a lawyer.



Thank you so much for the replay. I read that section, before posting and felt I was in my rights to cancel, because of this part about losing the amount to hold and secure. I appreciate any help and hope to find an attorney around here that is affordable. Thanks again!!!


I agree with you that this happened backwards, and as such, arguably there was no meeting of the minds. This argument evaporates if you move in, so if you are serious that you do not want to live there, don't move in.

WA does allow pre-move in deposits, but is very picky about the difference between a fee and a deposit. If it is a fee they have to tell you that, and that they are not returning it under any circumstances, and if it is a deposit, there has to be a walk-though checklist BEFORE you fork over deposit moneys.

Anybody can sue anybody else for anything, basically. But just because somebody says "I'm going to sue you!!" is not a reason to cave on the spot. I think you have a good argument that as he took your money first, then you signed the lease, and you never moved in, that the MOST he is entitled to keep is that 1/2 of the deposit.

Landlords are always on their very best behavior before you move in. Given his conduct so far, I'd say good riddance, and go find a landlord who understands the rules and doesn't try to get his way through threats. There are good landlords out there.

Elizabeth Powell

Using Avvo does not form an attorney client relationship.

Sean Patrick Kuhlmeyer

Sean Patrick Kuhlmeyer


Call Liz if you need help with this, she clearly knows her stuff...



Thank you so much for responding, I really appreciate it and value your advice!

Landlord-tenant topics

Recommended articles about Landlord-tenant

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer