Lost in translation


I had a perfect example of lost in translation yesterday. A friend of mine who is new to renting apartments happened to break her lease a few months before the lease ends. Her landlord had asked her to pay the rent for the rest of the term as penalty but agreed to refund it back if she finds a tenant soon.

My friend misunderstood it and instead thought that her landlord wanted her to find a tenant for her. She also assumed that since she would be paying rent for the rest of the term, she can have the keys to herself. As a result she did not hand over the keys to her landlord.

Yesterday when my friend went to show the apartment to some prospective tenants, she found the landlord there who was furious at her for not returning the keys and entering the apartment after she has broken the lease and moved out.

As much as I wanted to be on my friends side, I couldn’t help but believe what my friend had done was wrong. She did break the lease and vacate the apartment last month and in normal circumstances when you vacate the house, you should handover the keys and pay your pending dues.

In ideal situation she should have vacated, returned the keys and paid her dues and then probably helped the landlord find some tenants so that the landlord can refund her money. However, the landlord is not obligated to do that, she was doing it as a favor.

I somehow mediated things between the two so that both of them came to a common understanding and after an intense conversation for about 2 hrs things were settled.

So what exactly happened here? Both the people were not at fault. I knew my friend for a long time and she is a nice person and the landlord seemed like a reasonable person too. Here is what caused the problem:

Terms and Condition:

Most of the times we take the terms and conditions section of any agreement for granted. How many of us actually read them? I have myself signed or clicked on “Accept” online without reading the terms and condition so many times. It’s okay to accept it blindly when you download software (although it is not good) but it is very risky to sign on something without reading them. In most cases there are hidden clauses which you may not be aware of and you will have to pay the penalty later on.

Speaking things out:

The biggest mistake that my friend did and probably the landlord too was, not discussing things out clearly. My friend assumed certain things and so did the landlord. If they had a proper conversation and decided on what to do, things wouldn’t have gone messy.

Put things in writing:

Any communication you do with your landlord or any other legal entities, always make sure to have it in writing. It is always good to go back and check a copy of that document or email to lay the facts straight.

Don’t follow other’s advice:

A lot of people had given numerous advices to my friend about this matter. It is okay to discuss it with friends and get their opinion but do not follow them blindly. Unless the person you are taking advice from is actually with you in the site of action. Most of the time, your friends are biased towards you and hear only your side of the story which in a way makes them give you advice that is favorable for you. Only when a person hears both the sides well, he can determine what is correct and give a proper solution.

Proper communication and maintaining good relationship with people that you deal with in your daily lives is important to avoid such scenarios. I know many cases where the landlord doesn’t charge anything for breaking the lease even when the agreement states otherwise. Do not make decisions in haste and don’t jump into conclusion in such situations. Instead hear out the other person and decide by placing yourself in others shoes.

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