MIDLOTHIAN, VA (WWBT) - An automatic lease renewal became a big problem for a Midlothian woman until NBC12 became involved.
Avadine Taylor believed she was renting on a month-to-month basis. She was shocked when the apartment complex told her it would cost $3,500 to leave.
Taylor is going to Texas and cleared out her apartment on Thursday. The apartment complex now says it is dissolving the lease and are letting her off the hook.
This happened after NBC12 went to the apartment complex on Wednesday to try and talk about any favorable options for the Army nurse veteran.
"They said they are not sending out lease renewals. I thought that meant I was going to be on a month to month after my lease expired in August 2016," Taylor said.
Taylor says she received the news of her job transfer and gave the complex 60 days of written notice. It was then she says that she learned based on a clause in her original lease had activated, and she was automatically entered into another 12-month lease.
"I said, 'What are you talking about?' She said, 'You are under a lease.' I said, 'What lease?' and that's when she went into the file cabinet and provided me with this unsigned lease that I've never seen before."
It was then that the Trophy Club Apartments informed her of breaking the lease and would have to pay a $3,500 courtesy charge. "I was shocked. I honestly was shocked," Taylor said.
Central Virginia Legal Aid says an unsigned lease is irrelevant. The signed lease is what's legally binding, and the $3,500 is an offer to break the lease. She could be held responsible for the entire remaining balance.
"This is a very good if not sad example of why it is so important for people to read and understand and follow the terms of their lease," said Attorney Marty Wegbreit.
NBC12 spent the past several days reaching out to Trophy Club managers. We actually went to the complex yesterday just to talk about any options for the veteran, but we did not have any luck.
"I'm not talking about anything," the property manager said. The manager was also told not to talk about renewal notices.
Earlier on Thursday, the Trophy Club emailed On Your Side Investigators saying the matter was resolved. Taylor followed up with her own email to NBC12 stating the lease was dissolved, and they let her off the hook.
The important message from Central Virginia Legal Aid Society is to know what's in your lease and get things in writing.
"Even if the tenant says, 'I didn't read it' or 'I didn't understand it' or 'I didn't agree to it,' the court is going to enforce what's in writing," Wegbreit said.
Trophy Club Apartments did not have to settle the issue this way, but it did, and the former tenant is happy. It is not easy to break a lease. If you do, you should expect to pay.
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