Breaking lease – statute of limitations on claims by landlord We signed a…

Breaking lease – statute of limitations on claims by landlord
We signed a six-month residential lease in January of ’97 and left a few months later (but before the lease was up). Neither we, nor the management company took any action at that point. Last month, we received a letter requesting nearly $2000 – most of which was for the balance of the lease, and some of which represents repairs they claim they had to make (none of which they notified us of until this last month). There is no provision in the contract addressing any penalties or obligations on breaking the lease.
My questions are as follows:
1 – Isn’t there a statute of limitations that would prevent them from coming after us now, after nearly four years?
2 – Even if they can’t sue us for the money, can they legally place a negative comment on our credit records? If so, what do we need to do to prevent this?
3 – Because this was so long ago, we don’t know (nor will they tell us) how quickly the management company was able to re-lease the apartment after we left. But it’s my understanding that if they did re-lease the apartment, we cannot be liable for rent past that point.
Thank you for any help you can give.

One thought on “Breaking lease – statute of limitations on claims by landlord We signed a…

  1. Re: Breaking lease – statute of limitations on claims by landlord
    First, Code of Civil Procedure section 337.2 says that an action for a lessee’s breach of a written lease of real property must be brought within four years of the earlier of the breach or the termination of the right of the lessee to occupy the property, whichever is the earlier.

    As a note of caution, several factors can ‘toll’ (pause or interrupt the running of) the four-year limitations period. One of the most common is when the person to be sued is out of state. Be careful about assuming you’re in the clear four years after the breach.

    The lease doesn’t have to specify damages for its breach. The law of contracts has abundant rules by which judges (and plaintiffs’ lawyers) can figure the money damages you will owe if sued.

    As to credit reports, Civil Code sections 1785-1786 (and subsections thereof) contain the basic law. I have not reviewed it in detail, but in skimming the provisions I see no reason why the fact of your non-payment of rent could not be reported as an unpaid obligation, and if you are sued and lose, the judgment would surely go on your credit reports. To be sure, not all landlords report to credit bureaus, but some do, and all judgments get reported.

    Finally, the landlord’s damages are subject to the limitation you mention — he cannot claim as damages unpaid rent for periods after the time he did, or with reasonable effort could have, re-rented the apartment.

    Bryan Whipple
    Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law
    P O Box 318
    Tomales, CA 94971-0318

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