Re-writing lease for troubled tenants, help.

Hello everyone, Im glad I have found this very informative forum. I know this is mostly an RE Investing forum, but considering this is the landlord section, here is my situation:

I have a rental property in the state of WA where the 1yr lease commenced in May of '07. The lease was signed by both husband and wife, but due to marital/domestic problems, a restraining order was filed against the husband. The wife has asked me if it would be possible to re-write the lease agreement in her name only. I am guessing that the reason to have only her name on the lease might be for other legal terms besides the restraining order.

My question is, would I be in any legal trouble if I were to terminate the current lease and write a new one for the next 7months for just the wife? I suppose it would be the same scenario when tenants seperate/divorce and one stays in the property to ride out the lease.

Thanks for reading my question as I look forward to expand my knowledge and experience with real estate.

I would only re-write the lease if the husband will sign something requesting to be removed from the lease. Otherwise, you would be altering a legally binding contract and the husband might have a claim against you. You don’t want to be in the middle of a domestic fight.

In addition, you should also consider who has the money. Did the husband earn the majority of the money? Will re-writing the lease take him off the hook and therefore limit your ability to recover damages?


Why would you want to re-write the lease? Right now, you have both parties jointly & severally liable for default on the agreement. If you release one party from the agreement by writing a new lease, then you only have one party to go after if (and likely when) they default on your lease.

I’d personally just say no to this, and let it run its normal course. On renewal, then sign a new lease with just the wife as the party on it. If she defaults on you during this lease, at least right now you can go after the husband for funds with your court judgment.


Also and this is from a LOT of experience with divorce/seperations during a rental tenancy, you need to keep your distance from all of this. Your relationship with your tenants IS that lease agreement and nothing more. Don’t get brought into this, and be firm with them. I learned the hard way that being a soft shoulder for a tenant to cry on is the biggest mistake you can make. I would predict that the wife is going to bail on you with the place because not only is she now going to have to pay for the entire rent herself, but it has ‘bad memories’ associated with it and she will want to leave and make a clean break. Know that there is a 75% chance of this happening, and prepare yourself for it. Expect to have to re-rent this. The next 3 months will be living hell for you if you don’t keep your distance with them, and don’t entertain their anxiety. My $0.02 worth… (and this comes from a LOT of experience in these situations). Good luck.

Oh, and one other thing… The lease agreement they have will become a weapon between them in this ‘War of Roses’. There is a high chance that if the husband wants to get at the wife, he could trash your place to force her to be liable for this. There’s nothing you can do about this, but whatever you do don’t reinforce the information about the lease being joint and severally liable between them. Otherwise it will just become another weapon that each will use against the other.

If I were in your shoes, I’d look for an opportunity to release BOTH of them from the lease and get the property back in your hands. Then find a new tenant. I’ve routinely seen the best tenants turn into the worst tenants when a marriage breakup occurs. Value your time and sanity and let them go if you can.