We will discuss the commercial landlord’s duty to mitigate damages after a default by tenant in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. First, Washington, D.C. is as follows.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia essentially follows the traditional common law approach. In the District of Columbia, a landlord has no duty to mitigate its damages after a tenant abandons its premises, provided the lease has no contractual provision reserving the landlord’s right to re-enter and re-let while holding the tenant liable for deficiency or loss of rent upon tenant’s default. If, however, the lease contains such a clause, then a landlord in the District has a duty to make reasonable efforts to mitigate damages upon re-entering the premises after abandonment. In a 1971 case, Simmons v. Federal Bar Bldg. Corp, 275 A.2d 545 (D.C.App. 1971), the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that “it has long been the rule in this jurisdiction that in the absence of a contractual provision reserving the landlord’s right to re-enter and re-let upon tenant’s default while holding the tenant liable for any deficiency or loss of rent, the landlord is under no obligation to mitigate damages before the expiration of the lease even after an abandonment.” The lease clause permitting the landlord to re-enter and re-let is construed as the landlord’s assumption of a duty to use “reasonable efforts” to re-let. A more recent District Columbia Court of Appeals case on the subject, Hart v. Vermont Investment Limited Partnership, 667 A.2d 578 (D.C.App 1995), affirms that D.C. law provides a landlord with three options in the event of a wrongful abandonment in a lease without a re-entry clause. First, the landlord may accept the abandonment, terminate the lease, and terminate the tenant’s obligation to pay future rent. The tenant remains liable for any damages specified in the lease as a penalty for its breach. Second, the landlord may re-let the premises and hold the tenant liable for any deficiency in the rent, without acquiescing in the abandonment. The landlord’s third option is to allow the premises to remain vacant and to hold the tenant liable for the full rent. Hart also affirms the mitigation exception when the lease contains a re-entry clause as discussed above.