This really depends on the wording of the lease. If the 2 months of rent is really "liquidated damages", then it may be enforceable. Talk to a local attorney to find out more.
Legal disclaimer: Mr. Lane is an attorney licensed in the state and federal courts of Colorado. This answer is for general information only and does not create an attorney client relationship between Chris Lane or St.Clair & Greschler, P.C.and any person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.
In part it depends on the type of rental you had and whether you fall under the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (facts not present in your post).
The pro-rated March, April and May sounds to me like money your are paying as damages for breaking the lease agreement. .
Had you not agreed to pay that amount and simply moved out in violation of the lease agreement the LL would have had to sue you for damages. The LL would have then been required by law to show that despite his/her good faith efforts he/she could not rent the place for part of March and all of April and May if LL wanted to recover part of March, April and May rent. An unlikely prospect in this renters market.
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The answers provided above are correct, depending on the terms of your lease, you landlord most likely will not have to refund the "overlapping" rent, and here is further explanation:
A lease for property is a contract for a tenancy in real estate.
A contract is an agreement between the parties that determines the rights and obligations of each party. Many times the contract will spell out the remedies available to the other party if one party breaches the contract, these are known as liquidated damages.
Liquidated damages are the damage amount predetermined by the parties during the formation of a contract for the injured party to collect as compensation upon a specific breach.
Liquidated damages must meet 2 criteria in order to be enforceable: the amount must be roughly approximate to the liklely damages and the actual damages must be sufficiently uncertain at formation so that such a clause will likely save both parties the future difficulty of estimating damages.
Likely In your situation, and because this is typical in most residential leases, there is a liquidated damages clause. The clause likely reads that in the event that the tenant breaches the lease (moves out early) the landlord may recover from the tenant the remaining amount owed under the lease. Meaning through May 31.
You indicated that you moved out March 12, assuming that you did not give notice before moving out (because you did not indicate notice was given) you would be liable for rent through April 2012 anyways - this is calculated by 30 days from the date of notice (March 12 - April 12) until the end of the next calculated period (end of april 2012). The liquidated damages here would then only be 1 month's rent.
As most Real Estate Agents charge approximately 1 month's rent as commission to find a new tenant, it would be reasonable to expect that the damages to the landlord were these additional costs. also that the landlord would be out the rent for the period that the property was vacant. So the first prong of the liquidated damages requirement is met, as the damages are roughly equivalent to the landlord's damages.
For the second prong, at formation it is uncertain how much the damages will be, because it is unknown when the breach will occur, and how many months it would take to find a new tenant.
So once again it would be likely that the landlord would be able to keep the amount paid as valid liquidated damages.
Good Luck and if you need further information, feel free to contact me.
Sam Mansoor, Attorney
Mansoor Law Firm, PLLC
50 Catoctin Circle NE #301
Leesburg, VA 20176
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